Album: A Thousand Ancestors

Artist: Eivind Opsvik & Michelle Arcila

Label: Loyal Label

Release Date: December 02, 2014

Thousand Ancestors 12-2



Norwegian-born/NYC-stationed double bassist Eivind Opsvik, of chamber pop duo Opsvik & Jennings as well as innovative outfit Overseas, is no stranger to challenging projects, having worked with everyone from jazz legends Paul Motian and Anthony Braxton to populist iconoclasts Bill Frisell and Martha Wainwright. Meanwhile, Michelle Arcila—originally from Costa Rica and a visual auteur whose photography has appeared in magazines like Downbeat, Les Inrockuptibles and Time Out NY as well as in exhibitions at NYC’s Jen Bekman Gallery and Paris’ Mainson d’Art Bernard Anthonioz—draws inspiration from the challenges of the solitary and intimate; art critics have called her “a storyteller who uses very few words.”

This sumptious collaborative presentation, then, aims to seduce fans of both artists, and indeed, it does. Granted, a limited edition box set (just 500 numbered copies) won’t necessarily reach the masses; but don’t underestimate word-of-mouth buzz generated by those 500 lucky consumers.

Over the course of ten audio tracks and ten photographic prints (which share titles), Opsvik and Arcila enter into a kind of suspended animation in which the listener/observer finds him- or herself drawn into a mini-dimension where stark reflection rubs elbows—quite delightfully, at that—with heightened sensory awareness. For example, a minimalist bass and percussion motif in “El Cadejos” gives way to something more freeform and propulsive, and that feeling is mirrored in the image depicted on the “El Cadejos” print, a shadowy figure on the side of forested mountain moving out from a thick puff of mist (or possibly smoke) in search of… something. Other sensations are no less palpable, from the subtle reverie of an elderly lady partially hidden behind foliage that’s underlined by some jittery/jocular rapid strokes of the bass bow (for “Vartdal”); to the early morning wooziness conveyed by a figure (or possibly two—is that the tip of a dog’s nose there as well?) partially under some bedcovers while the gently droning soundtrack suggests sunlight gradually filling the room.

The 12” x 12” clothbound box houses a vinyl LP plus duplicate CD and digital download card. A poem inscribed on the record’s sleeve reads, in part, “A draft of the forgotten hurling through rooms without boundaries… to lead (the way) while the cool of pre-spring water flows over naked feet like invisible shardes [sic] of glass.” That’s prescience, considering the musical content. And the ten art prints, each also 12” x 12” printed on thick stock and abetted by a huge foldout poster, lend an accompanying physical heft to what’s already a, shall we say, heavy sonic presentation. It’s impossible to convey the sheer beauty of this release—but then, when has any art review done full justice to the actual art, hmm?

DOWNLOAD: You need the complete package, obviously.

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