Think of some of the top European jazz groups around these days from anywhere on the continent excluding UK and Ireland for the sake of convenience. There are no right or wrong approaches to this particular parlour game, one that certainly beats the peculiar tendency of some among the male, pale and stale of the species to re-enact the battle of Waterloo over any given weekend when there's no available field to go metal detecting in or a handy train station platform to stand at the end of. We'd go, if pressed hard, for the Marcin Wasilewski trio, Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, the Tord Gustavsen trio, Vein - and completing the top 5: this lot - Swedish-Norwegian leviathans Rymden who are the closest thing to the much missed and yet still hugely influential e. s. t.
Here the trio hot footed it to Oslo last year on a recording that features new arrangements of some gems from the band's already sturdy back catalogue. You might see this as ''Rymden with strings'' - the strings with a few knobs on otherwise known as the sole syllable toting KORK (or to their grans ''Kringkastingsorkestret'') - no not some sort of new chatbot where you can solo like David Gilmour but a high profile orchestra from Norway that has played at a few intimate club gigs dotted around like that little shindig held in the back room of a pub, Eurovision. There is plenty of push and pull between the core trio of Bugge Wesseltoft with the two surviving e. s. t. stalwarts big Dan and Magnus not afraid to exert themselves even amid the combined might and potential carnage of the arsenal of musical weaponry at the disposal of the orchestra.
Perhaps not the magnum opus in the Rymden catalogue so far, that accolade goes - tough call - to the celestial tracking Star Sailors and yet it is a fun listen for other reasons. Certainly as reliably prog as ever Dan Berglund adds fabulous elasticity to 'Free as a Bird' and the strings while tame as a domestic cat in places prowl eventually enough for the flow to become more feral. Bugge is very tender on the beautiful 'My Life in a Mirror,' the spread of tracks littered by Space Sailors and Reflections and Odysseys numbers.
If you see yourself as a lateral thinker or just prone to make idle comparisons, Rymden + KORK is to Rymden as E. S. T. Symphony is to e. s. t. And yet beyond such chin stroking what we have here is more nimble racing yacht than a vast cruise liner venturing out on an historic, if iceberg strewn, maiden voyage. We're still up for the ride however bumpy at times given this mostly enjoyable showing. Rymden's biggest tune 'Søndan' certainly the best thing of all and handily streaming ahead of the full album release glistens with new life and that most valuable of all commodities, hope. Out on Friday
MORE READING AND LISTENING:
Live in Umeå, review - 2021
Space Sailors, review - 2020
Magnus Öström, interview - 2019