Norwegian guitarist Karl Bjorå proved already on his debut album as a bandleader, «The Most Obvious Solution» (Øra Fonogram, 2019) that he is a determined musical wanderer in search of the beautiful, the unusual and unexpected, but above all, the authentic and the truthful. His sophomore album, «Whimsical Giant», cements even further his versatile and rich musical horizons, encompassing modern jazz with ambient textures, spiced with Americana, Nordic folk, whispers of art-rock and post-rock, fleeting glimpses of classicism, and even echoes of hymnal reverence.
Bjorå is known from the power trio Yes Deer, and his collaborations with partner sax player Signe Emmeluth in her Amoeba and their duo Owl. «Whimsical Giant» enjoys the support of Emmeluth, double bass player Bárður Reinert Poulsen and drummer Andreas Winther (both played on «The Most Obvious Solution»), as well as pedal steel guitarist and bass clarinet player Lars Horntveth (of Jaga Jazzist), keyboards player Anja Lauvdal (of Moskus trio), Hardanger fiddler Johanne Flottorp and harmonium player Alf Hulbækmo. Bjorå composed for this ensemble seven distinct pieces that flow organically, with a sense of introspection laced with reserved melancholia. These pieces have a unique resinous, woody and reedy sound, and all focus on a collective band sound with no showmanship. Throughout «Whimsical Giant», the music flows gently between suggestive and mysterious soundscapes and nuanced dramas and eventually accumulates into a mercurial sonic journey, full of capricious and elusive inventions that defy any familiar expectations.
As the opening piece is titled, «Make Sense Somehow», the music follows its own inner logic. Each piece has its own story to tell, with its colorful characters and its own personal dogma. These stories effortlessly duck and weave, and ebb and flow throughout harmonious and chamber and folk-like textures. «Scenic Route» offers sonic travel into imaginary wide-open Americana countryside while the following «Redpointing» makes a full circle into dark Nordic sceneries. The touching «Three Times Three» revolves around a beautiful, child-like melody. The title piece demonstrates best Bjorå’s whimsical and eccentric compositional skills, matching chamber ambient soundscape with Talk Talk song form poetics, and «Picking Up The Pieces» explores even further this delicate and sensual art-rock meets post-rock vein. The last piece «Odd Outro» obeys the versatile and diverse vision of this album, and suggests a strange kind of Nordic folky drone, capturing the essence of this beautiful album, an album that is courting the notion of its very own genre.
Karl Bjorå (g), Johanne Flottorp (Hardanger vio, v), Lars Horntveth (pedal steel g, bcl), Signe Emmeluth (as, v), Alf Hulbækmo (harmonium), Anja Lauvdal (p, synth, v), Bárður Reinert Poulsen (b), Andreas Winther (dr)