Fra Det Onde translates to “From Evil”, and while I wouldn’t say there’s something nefarious about this amazing spaced-out jazz set there is definitely something otherworldly. Drummer Olaf Olsen, bassist Rune Nergaard, and trumpeter Erik Kimestad Pedersen all have miles and miles of musical road between them, working in the free jazz and experimental music world with some of the finest artists on the planet. These cats are tight and on point, like Trio of Doom but darker and slightly more sinister.
As if it’s not enough that these three music wizards got together for a recording session, they add in the sonic wizardry of Emil Nikolaisen behind the mixing board. Nikolaisen is the man behind Norwegian alternative rock band Serena-Maneesh and just an overall musical Gandolf of the Scandinavian music scene. Within Fra Det Onde, Nikolaisen acts as the band’s spiritual Teo Macero, mixing Fra Det Onde’s session into something not of this earth. Musically this is hard bop and free jazz at its finest, but with Nikolaisen’s mixing and atmospherics it becomes something completely different.
On the band’s El Paraiso Records debut they set out to melt frontal lobes while tipping their hats to the masters that came before. They succeed on all counts, and then some.
There’s a frenetic pace on this album. One that maintains a sense of flight and urgency throughout. “Fri” touches on of course Miles Davis, but I’m also hearing the more complex work of Freddie Hubbard during his prolific early 70s era. Late night, contemplation, and a sort of woozy disconnectedness to the world around you as Erik Kimestad Pedersen lays down some truly otherworldly trumpet. The trio twists and turns until we’re not sure just where we’re at. The production of Emil Nikolaisen gives it all a kind of spaced-out bop vibe. “Os” opens with swirling organ and a ghostly trumpet line, as if beaming in from some other dimension. It could easily be a theme to some dystopian noir cinematic experience. “Captain Gold Silver” keeps the frenetic pace moving, like a swirl of notes and energy being moved along by ghosts of the past. It’s busy and building towards the sky.
I cannot highlight enough the sort of ethereal glue Nikolaisen uses to bring this whole musical consortium together. Part Teo Macero, part Eddie Kramer, and part spectral shaman, Emil Nikolaisen adds a sense of space and time here. It’s as if the trio are recording in a biosphere on the moon, and Nikolaisen is adding bits of space dust and black holes into the mix, making this hard bop outfit something quite unique and unified.
“From” has groove and rhythm. It has a backbone with Afro-Cuban DNA with touches of early 70s Miles thanks to a fiery trumpet and ghostly Farfisa. “Our” sounds like a funeral procession on the road to Hades. A kind of dark promenade that mixes mournful with musical freakout. This is full-on free form madness in the best sense. “Sins” closes out this journey and with the most rock and roll vibe on the record. Olaf Olsen and Rune Nergaard lay down a powerhouse groove while Erik Kimestad Pedersen plays a controlled yet commanding melody as if Miles Davis was getting down and dirty with King Crimson circa 1974. Of course Nikolaisen lays some serious studio magic over top to make the whole thing sizzle.
Fra Det Onde is this anomaly in the world of modern jazz. It swings and sways like the best hard bop and fusion does, but Emil Nikolaisen gives the proceedings a truly rock and roll spirit. Free form space jazz from some other dimension. It’s as if the great beyond gifted us with the spirits of Hendrix, Davis, Cherry, and something not quite of this earth and let it settle on these four European cats for a one-of-a-kind session. The results are one of the most striking space jazz albums you’ll hear this year. Or any year.
8.5 out of 10
Fra Det Onde Feat. the Legendary Emil Nikolaisen will be released 10/2. Preorder it here.