Lars Jakob Rudjord is a Norwegian pianist and composer, based on the windswept Lista peninsula on the Southwest coast of Norway. With a haunting and icy sound that is truly Nordic, he is one of the foremost artists within the Norwegian neoclassical/modern classical scene.
Through his songs, he tells stories about the endless maintenance of old, one-cylindered boat engines, looking out on the top of the clouds from airplane windows, growing up watching his father painting landscapes, and everything inbetween. His latest album, Indiepiano, was recorded in Studio G Brooklyn, New York with producer Joel Hamilton, who holds multiple Grammy Awards and nominations, and features string players Hannah Epperson and Katrine Schiøtt. His debut album, Clockwork, was described by the media as ”a musical journey that few, if anyone, has experienced before”, and The Vinyl Anachronist (US) stated that ”this is the best thing I’ve heard this year”.
“I get inspired by working. Then images and feelings appear and it becomes unconscious, in a way. It’s unusual for me to get inspiration looking at a rainbow,” laughs Norwegian pianist/composer Lars Jakob Rudjord, describing the process of making “Indiepiano,” his evocative instrumental album. Unusual indeed, as the lilt and lift of “Indiepiano,” does suggest rainbows spanning bright skyscapes, inspiring the listener.
Soothing, eloquent, “Indiepiano” inhabits an intimate space that lures the listener into the music and themselves. Mostly, Lars performs solo on several of his collection of keyboards. Ambient portraits of Norway’s dramatically changing seasons sketch “Spring” and “Frost”’s delicacy and optimism. The dramatic fjord beyond his window could be the setting for “Marna,” the track named for Lars’ old wooden boat, its rhythmic putter, fuelled by percussion from album producer, Joel Hamilton, at his Studio G in Brooklyn.
These tender, inward melodies, an evolution from Lars’ first release, 2013’s “Clockwork,” reflect a hectic time. After years of constant touring, Lars and his wife and business partner, the artist Ingvild Koksvik, decided to move from Oslo to his childhood home. They established Fyrlyd Records (“Lighthouse Sound”); “indiepiano” is their fourth release. In the process, Lars re-connected with the mysteries of his childhood, the many shipwrecks whose lost souls and plunder fortify local legends. Hence, the eerie “Ship Without Crew.” Lars explains, “There’s something Nordic, not folk, but a feeling, a way of melody… like a lullaby. The way we produce is very atmospheric, like something old and distant, yet really close.” The music paints soundscapes: heavenly ones, in the case of “Big Sky" and “Horisont,” “Horizon,” with its optimistic rippling piano.
Love of vast horizons is a passion Lars inherited from his father, revered landscape painter Reidar Rudjord, who captured their remote region of Farsund. “It has a lot to do with my father, in a non-sentimental way. Having those kind of memories,” Lars explains. “I grew up not going to kindergarten, so I just hung around in his studio all day as he worked. He took me out in the fields to paint horizons; he was famous for his skies.” Instead of oils, on “Fathersong,” Lars uses his most elaborate instrumentation: his “treated” upright piano, and an analog rack synth controlled by a joystick; the echoing sweep of Katrine Schiøtt’s cello and Canadian violinist Hannah Epperson’s exotic waterphone, a hand-made percussive instrument fuelled by water.
In many ways, this album is a departure for Lars, yet at the same time, it represents a homecoming from a winding journey. “I grew up wanting to become a classical pianist, then discovered jazz and had to become more rhythmic,” he explains. Lars moved to Oslo, took a Bachelor’s degree in Musicology at the University, then moved on to the Norwegian Academy of Music, earning a Bachelor’s degree in jazz piano. “You were supposed to compose very serious music. It seemed sterile, like a cage,” he recalls. “As I developed my own music, I didn’t want to call it either jazz or classical, because it is inbetween. So I made my own genre. Indiepiano. It took me quite a while, but with this new, quiet music, I finally feel completely at home. “
VIVIEN GOLDMAN 2016