Torun Eriksen returns with her third album for Jazzland Recordings, "Passage", following "Glittercard" and "Prayers and Observations" with her trademark cool delivery of contemplative and emotionally infused compositions.
Torun's song-writing is not about putting forward an individual view of the world, but instead is about creating songs that fit into the world they describe, comfortably slipping into their spaces as though they should always have been there. These are songs that begin with the personal, but reach far into the universal experience we all share. Whether charting the course of our will towards togetherness with others, moments of doubt or pain, aspiration to experience more life than before, or watching another's first steps into independence, Torun's songs capture beautiful epiphanies that we can all relate to. Musically, the album ventures into the familiar made new, often having that haunting quality of somehow having always been there. Rhythmically surprising, harmonically shifting and never predictable; often expressionistic, but never moving into angular abstraction; smooth undulations between jittering moments of uncertainty and musically sparse moments of clarity and anticipation reflect the modern world in which we live like a perfect mirror.
A multitude of influences and moods are detectable, but appear where they belong: "Passage From The Past" has hints of a Parisian cafe, but avoids pastiche. "Umbrella Song" and has echoes of Joni Mitchell, but the considered playing of Kjetil Dalland on acoustic guitar and Torun's emotional focus are utterly different from anything in Mitchell's canon. Similar feelings could be attributed to "Baby and Her Babe", but in this case the arrangement is what creates the echoes while the actual song structure takes it to a place that is newly explored by Torun. Even when an instrument like Pedal Steel Guitar appears - as on "Be Like Him", the associations with American Country music recede into the distance, and an altogether different feeling is evoked and brought to the forefront of the song.
The arrangements shimmer with a mellifluous haze, sometimes reminiscent of a warm summer's evening, and at others of a chill winter sunrise. A warmth shines across occasional shadows, yet never succumbs to the excesses of introspection. Likewise, the accomplished musicianship of Kjetil Dalland, Anders Engen, Kjetil Steensnæs and David Wallumrød never comes close to excess, with not a single note more or less than is necessary.
"Edgar's Blues" enters with a hobbling, grumbling beat, drifting in blue waves, arriving at a contentment before breaking out into a toddling and stumbling blues tantrum. It is a marvellous evocation of wilful independence, familiar to many parents.
"Bees and Butterflies" brings gospel-tinged ruminations on loss, both real and possible. Nature's departing beauty mirrors the possible departures of the beauty of love. Not a lament so much as the capture of a little moment of doubt, albeit profound.
"Draw Me a Heart" bears the hallmarks of sophistication established on her earlier albums, and is perhaps the most immediate song on the album, nesting a straightforward and highly memorable melody in a perfect arrangement, hinting at a drama beneath in long-chiming gonglike cymbals.
"Deuce Parade" is almost fugue-like in its musical shifts, flitting here and there with a simmering intensity, regularly catching the listener off-guard, building expectations, removing them and creating new ones with each passage, almost touching silence, seeming ready to burst, but dwells on a threshold, conjuring the feeling that "wanting is better than having" into an almost touchable form.
"White Lies" closes the album with a meditation on hope, and the things we sometimes have to say to ourselves to carry on when all seems darkest. Living in the possibility of a happy ending, no matter how remote it may seem, is a better choice than settling for anything less - A fitting conclusion to the album, slowly dissolving to Torun's voice and a gentle beat.
The remarkable beauty of Torun's voice follows the contours of each song without extravagance, carefully embroidering itself into the fabric of each musical tapestry to become the emotional center of the whole, sedate and graceful, and endlessly full of meaning.
"Passage" is not just a worthy successor to her previous remarkable albums: it surpasses them, with that enviably effortless approach that has set Torun apart from her contemporaries. Each of the nine songs is a self-contained and perfect capture of a distinct theme, that, when taken together, show an artist at the peak of her powers.