In The Country, Losing Stones, Collecting Bones

Peter Margasak

By Peter Margasak

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
An excellent sophomore disc from an unusual piano trio.

Scandinavia has recently attracted attention with some unusual piano trios that subvert the genre's usual sound, either by playing with an almost somnambulistic restraint (Tord Gustavsen Trio) or by tapping into rock aesthetics (E.S.T.). Norway's In the Country aren't so reducible. On the group's excellent second album, keyboardist Morten Qvenild writes gorgeous poppy melodies, spreading out his notes like he was Paul Bley, while bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Pal Hausken back him up with steady, slow-burn grooves. The arrangements are generally fixed, sticking with a loose verse-chorus structure, but all three players still find room to improvise: Qvenild delivers emotionally wrenching solos and Arntzen and Hausken subtly tweak their patterns with every pass. Cameos by the Swedish pop singer Stefan Sundstrom and New York guitarist Marc Ribot, who helps transform the meditative “Torch-Fishing” into a simmering rocker, only enhance In the Country's lyric gifts.