Cosmic heavy metal atmospherics from the 30 year career of guitarist Terje Rypdal.
Peter Marsh 2002
Guitarist Terje Rypdal has been with ECM for over 30 years now, and his substantial output for the label has traced a sometimes wayward path through electric jazz, ambient soundscaping, classical composition and rock theatrics.
Though Rypdal's first musical outings (with the Vanguards) showed the influence of twangsters like Hank Marvin, it was his stint as guitarist with composer George Russell's band in the early 70s that got him noticed, alongside a young Jan Garbarek, bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen. Rypdal's potent concoction of psychedelic rock, plangent chording and furious abstraction a la Sonny Sharrock was a standout feature on Russel's Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature and the two subsequent ECM records by the Jan Garbarek group.
By the time of Terje's eponymous 1971 debut, Miles Davis seems to be the overriding influence; "Tough Enough" is pretty much lifted from Miles's "Right Off", where Rypdal's spacey chords and bluesy machine gun bursts suggest a fusion of 60's Jimmy Page, Sonny Sharrock and John Mclaughlin.
Fast forward a couple of years and Rypdal's created a music pretty much his own; "Silver Bird is Heading for the Sun" and "The Hunt" (both from 1974) marry electric jazz with an almost prog rock sensibility. French horn, mellotron and fuzzed electric bass provide a shifting, nervybackdrop for Rypdal's extended guitar workouts, marrying dense, darktextural exploration with vibrant improvisational flair. By the time of Odyssey and Waves (featuring trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg), this approach had been expanded into aseductive ambient fusionmapped out by lush, complex chordal shapes, vague, drifting atmospherics and foggy swells of ecstatic, distorted guitar.
Rypdal's band the Chasers (formed in the mid 80's) are well represented; this trio marked a return to rockier pastures, with mixed results. "Chaser" is mere limp power trio work out, though pieces like "I Disremember Quite Well" and "Transition" hark back to the impressionistic textures of Waves and the solo After the Rain (sadly not represented here). Rypdal's classical leanings are featured in the 2nd movement of his Double Concerto for Two Guitars and Symphony Orchestra, where slow moving, lush neo baroque chords shift under yearning guitar figures...
While Rypdal's guitar owes little to jazz (at least harmonically) he remains one of the most distinctive guitarists on the planet. His mix of progressive rockisms, improvisational fire and finely wrought atmospherics may not be to everyone's taste all of the time (it's unlikely that anyone but the most committed Terjeophile will love everything on this collection) there's much to admire in his work. Worth investigating.