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Swedish, Gothenburg-based trio Dark Horse – pianist John Holmström, double bass player Alfred Lorinius and drummer Mårten Magnefors, was formed in 2012, released a self-titled album in 2015, and after extensive touring in Europe, Japan, and Sweden recorded its second album. «Listen» was recorded over two days in a remote cabin by the ocean, in Tofte, Norway, owned by Holmström’s family, and later edited into compact pieces. The natural sound of the album owes a lot to the relaxed surroundings, pushing the trio to turn its organic and non-conceptual, free-improvised interplay into a collective composition.

Each of the seven pieces focuses on distinct dynamics. The improvising-as-composing-together approach is already evident in the opening, 13-minutes piece «Allas Favorit», taken from the very first session in Tofte. Holmström, Lorinius, and Magnefors building and releasing the tension patiently and methodically, as one tight unit. «Fri Form» is inspired by the random and natural, dance-like movement of trees, waves and boats during the night by the Norwegian coast and soon gravitates into an urgent, intense piece. The brief «XY» offers a more spacious and sparse interplay.

«Brutet Groove» revolves around a quirky pulse, but still suggests a coherent form that highlights the nuanced work of Lorinius, and Magnefors, responding and commenting instantly on each other’s ideas, and letting Holmström complete this rhythmic puzzle with a touching melody. Lorinius introduces the free-improvised «SGTB», the most abstract piece here. «Fri Swing» returns to post-bop legacy and offers a hard-swinging interplay of the trio. The last «Fjäll-låten» (Mountain song in Swedish), was edited from a 20-minute improvised sequence, and again, highlights Dark Horse as a strong, mature unit, that knows how to tell arresting, dramatic stories, in this case about the ever-shifting sonic landscape in glorious colors, much akin to its name («Mountain Song» in Swedish).

The vinyl version of «Listen» comes in a heavy-duty tip-on sleeve, featuring the painting «Overwhelming Structure» by the Helsinki-based visual artist Maija Lassila.

Eyal Hareuveni

John Holmström (p), Alfred Lorinius (b), Mårten Magnefors (dr)


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