In amongst loads of other tremendous piano trio discs this one has really wormed its way into my affections. Spacelab comprises Nikolaj Hess on piano, Anders “AC” Christensen on bass and Mikkel Hess on drums. This is their second album, the first being The Champ, and featuring Hammond organ rather than piano.
They all grew up in Vejle, not that far from Legoland in Jutland, Denmark, and had been playing together for ages before choosing the name Spacelab in 1997 – apparently they liked the images of moon landscapes and whole universes of space that it evoked.
Indeed, the initial track here, Jamil, opens Hess/AC/Hess in space-filled, airy fashion with piano filigree, brushed snare and a bass solo itself full of space and easily digestible melodic lines. The mood is as low-key as the Norwegian Tord Gustavsen band, though the Danes have a sound all of their own. The melodic sources suggest European classical music.
Things take a more gently determined form in Up, with Mikkel Hess leading the way into a largely non-cymbal drum solo. Super 8 is firm yet elegiac; Concorde Je T’aime richly romantic; Habibi ups the tension with strongly placed, Middle Eastern-tinged chords from Nikolaj Hess and more forceful stick work from Mikkel Hess. All three musicians contribute compositions.
The recording sound of this album is beautifully clear and closely intimate, with the drums forward in the mix but never overpowering.
Here is a little preview video:
- To buy Spacelab’s Hess/AC/Hess go here.
Categories: CD review