Norwegian Good | Bol Achieves Maximum Luminosity with Silver Sun

“Sometimes we had that pure magic where you have no doubts—not while you record, not while you listen the first time, not while you listen again and again during mixing.”


Can a band sense they’re making a classic recording while it’s happening? I’ve often wondered about such things—what sort of vibe fills the studio when an obviously brilliant album is taking shape. It’s something I was anxious to ask Tone Ase, the divinely gifted woman who fronts the Norwegian jazz-prog-tronica trio Bol, who unleashed one of the most startling albums of 2005 with their second release Silver Sun.

“The intensity of the experience in the studio varied,” said Ase. “Sometimes we had that pure magic where you have no doubts—not while you record, not while you listen the first time, not while you listen again and again during mixing. The first magic actually doesn’t let go. We had some first-take/one-take sessions when everything is fresh and still you just get into the music instantly, and know this was it. Nothing beats that in a studio session.”

Nothing beats the sound of a group operating at the peak of its inspiration, either. Silver Sun’s nine peerless tracks take the listener on a musical and emotional journey that twists and turns like a jungle river, revealing provocative secrets about the human heart. Ase, brilliant keyboardist Stale Storlokken, and drummer Tor Haugerud utilize elements of progressive rock, jazz, electronica, and Joni Mitchell–esque folk/pop to create a thoroughly absorbing listening experience. Moods range from the hushed intimacy of “Could I Be There,” to the primal intensity of “Warrior” and “Calling to Myself,” to the gentle serenades of “Caring” and “Song Tread Lightly.” A key track is “Curious,” a wildly inventive song which repeats the lyric “Love should be curious/Never settle for the obvious” numerous times while unpredictable sonic flourishes bob and weave around it, and Ase does unforgettable things with her classically trained voice.

“We had the opportunity to try out the material from different angles,” said Ase. “Improvising is always a big part of what we do. In some tunes it comes out in the orchestration, the choice of sounds/soundscape, the solos, et cetera, while the form, melody, and chords are pretty fixed. Other times we work with open stretches and improvise on the form, the melodic themes, the soundscape. We wanted to make a record that reflected our live playing but also worked as a CD unto itself. There is a need for being more precise, I think…reflecting a more ‘efficient’ approach to the improvisation.”

Efficiency might imply some sort of coldly technical approach, though, and that’s not at all what Bol have done. In fact, the emotions are intensely real and deeply moving, as though Ase is channeling the spirit of different characters, then stepping back to observe the results. She wails and soothes in equal measure in these songs. The results defy easy categorization.

“There is an urge among young people here to seek out new expressions, especially in music. And the reason Bol is considered jazz is very much because of the improvisation—we are known as improvising jazz musicians, and that’s been our arena until now. Still, I see that we should look for other arenas. We played at the Avanto Festival in Helsinki, Finland, and they presented us as ‘the Norwegian masters of experimental pop’—I liked that.”

Bol’s music inevitably stretches the definition of any label one applies, because it’s genuinely groundbreaking. It’s filled with breathtaking moments that seem like the result not only of a band working as an inspired whole, but of decisions being made, at every turn, that maximize the power and emotional impact of the compositions.

“I have a good feeling about this album,” said Ase. “I always think that some things could be better, but as a whole I think this is a production that we all are very satisfied with, and that we think represents Bol in a true way. If it is truly a ‘classic,’ I think that is up to others to decide.”

In this corner, the jury has reached a verdict: Silver Sun is a haunting, spine-tingling masterwork that is impossible to forget. And it’s easily one of the finest platters to emerge from the fertile landscape of Scandinavia this year.

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