Maridalen: Bortenfor

For their second album the Oslo group produce more moody, strongly melodic chamber jazz, adding pedal steel to the line-up

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The moody chamber jazz of Maridalen’s eponymous debut was one of the most welcome surprises of 2021, and in my review I sensed the hallmarks of an instant classic. Listening back to it many times since, my opinion remains unswayed, so as I approach this follow-up album I’m acutely aware that I mustn’t be swept away by confirmation bias.

As the group return to the Oslo church that begat their name, there’s a sense of both continuity and progression within this slightly augmented lineup. If the group’s debut sometimes resembled a series of sepia-tinged postcards from a bygone era, the wider-screen vistas of Bortenfor are upgraded to a faded but equally alluring Technicolor.

Opening brightly with the På Nye Eventyr (on new adventures), the group’s pure and unapologetic melodicism is buoyed by an elastic groove, accented by syncopated finger-snaps. Portommet (the doorway) marks the first of pedal-steel maestro Emil Brattested’s two atmospheric cameos, and he brings with him a pleasingly on-trend Nordic vibe.

Elsewhere, the telepathic interplay during the intro to Månesykkel (moon cycle) is quite sensational, a worthy frame for Jonas Kilmore Vemøy’s crystal-cut solo. Sjølie’s spare piano adds a somewhat spooky vibe to Der Hvor Vi Ikke Gå (where we don’t go), but the real surprise of the album is Sandermosen. It has a real ear-worm of a melody and Heffre rides an infectious groove, driven relentlessly forwards by Haga’s powerful bass line. 

Elsewhere Dørstokken (doorstep) and Silhuett are closer in spirit to the stripped-back aesthetics of the group’s debut, the formality of Danse Du Soir recalls Franz Koglmann, and in one final surprise I Havn (in port) elicits an exuberant chorus of wordless vocals. Making light of the fabled “difficult” second-album syndrome, Maridalen have done it again.

Discography
På Nye Eventyr; Portrommet; Månesykkel; Der Hvor Vi Ikke Gå; Sandermosen; Dørstokken; Silhuett; Bilder Fra En Film; Danse Du Soir; I Havn (44.00)
Anders Heffre (ts); Jonas Kilmore Vemøy (t, p, v); Andreas Rødland Haga (b) with Emil Brattested (pedal steel guitar) on 2 and 10, Aleksander Sjølie (p) on 4. Maridalen Kirke, Oslo, June 2021.
Jazzland Recordings CD 377 945 0