You WILL fall for them.
Chris Jones 2009
A little like Macca, throwing himself into wedlock with Heather Mills so soon after Linda's death, it seems somehow just wrong to begin extolling the joys of yet another new Scandinavian piano trio. The sense of loss at Esbjorn Svensson's passing last year is still palpable. Surely to fall for another bunch of utterly tasteful, technically dazzling, modal merchants is just a tad fickle and unfaithful? Well, maybe, but unfortunately Hello Troll counters any such qualms by sheer dint of its brilliance. Face it, these guys are here to stay, and you WILL fall for them.
In fact, apart from the more ardent Norwegian watchers out there and a few Late Junction listeners you may not realise that pianist Helge Lien along with bass player Frode Berg and drummer Knut Aalefjær have been around for a fair while. Hello Troll is their sixth album in seven years and marks that crucial point where a band that know both their chops and each other finally ascend to a level of playing that on the surface looks easy and yet remains stunning.
The first couple of tracks do, in fact, put you in mind of the kind of fast-paced Jarrettisms that EST were so adept at, yet to call HLT derivative is a huge disservice. Lien's modal approach owes as much to the original source, Bill Evans, as it does any of his fellow near-countrymen. By track three (Radio) Berg's bowed bass propels this mysterious number into unknown territory. Like the cover image of a dark forest's interior, this is interior music made by men who, like most Norwegians, hold a deep respect for the pristine wilderness that surrounds them.
The dancier numbers here: Troozee, Diverted Dance or Snurt, contain enough catchy riffs to make them trusted friends upon repeated listens, while on Halla Troll Lien's use of dissonance is a fabulous counterpoint to the jagged time signature.
By the gorgeous closing In The Wind Somewhere you've forgotten that there ever was an Esbjorn, Brad Meldhau, Tord Gustavsen or whoever. This is a world perfectly created by Lien and his pals. Get over it and just enjoy...