The Norwegian Jazz trio In The Country wields a sonic variety that is striking. Whereas their previous effort, This Was The Pace Of My Heartbeat, spun sonorities rich and complex and bursting with harmonics, their sophomore work is a thick slice of tumultuous energy. The soundfield is sparse and wintry at first, with the piano's quietly graded runs and repetitions backed by wobbly slide guitar figures and a subdued rhythm section, but like a weather system it gradually takes on a more bristling density. Come "Ashes To Ashes", which is marked by somnambulant vocals chanting "Everyone live their life/ Everyone's going to die", muffled drum punches, detuned acoustic plucks and squeaky, clanky piano lines mesh into something deeper and more episodic than their previous jams.
Further tracks similarly move from rough tonalities to smooth glissandi, building psychologically nuanced and stylistically eclectic structures that bring about specific effects; sometimes leaning towards a limited number of notes and tone colors to evoke a haunting minimalism, elsewhere shifting into a bluesy, alt country form or plunging into dramatic improvised exchanges. Everywhere details and textures arise, rarely obstructing the music's primal power, but rather twisting and falling like so many colored leaves.
The addition of certain parts to the sound, though, such as Marc Ribot's swanky rock riffs on "Torch-Fishing" (a piece which reuses the same basic harmony as "Ashes To Ashes"), serves to hinder the groups chemistry. As the trio moves from the thoughtful and intently focussed piano piece, "The Bear", to the irregular rhythms and sliding bass groans of "Can I Come Home Now", one gets the sense that the various elements are starting to get away from them. As a result, the once intoxicating energy of the group is somewhat diffused. The anthemic, marching piano's of "Kung Fu Boys" and the lazy folk ballad "Don't Walk Another Mile" is another odd pairing, but the vaporous energy of the one breathes into and informs the other. In these ways, the trio plays with the dynamics of a basic jazz setup and churns out some arrangements that, although occasionally a tad garish, are played with a vigor and confidence that is oftentimes entrancing. 6/10 -- Max Schaefer (9 January, 2007)