on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2021 17 Okt

Mathias Eick – When We Leave

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | 2 Comments


When I think about my relationship to listening to new music, I remember that Gary Larsen cartoon in which a student raises his hand and says, “May I be excused? My brain is full.”

Between the stuff people have laid on me over the years in the form of burned CDs and files, plus my burgeoning CD collection, not to mention my vinyl, hi-def downloads etc., I have enough music to listen to for the rest of my life. I have to confess: There are CDs in my collection I have yet to break the plastic off of.

That being said, being a Mathias Eick fan, I had to listen to his new album, When We Leave. I like it so much I’ve listened to it a number of times, and I’ve bought the HD download (saves space and sounds magnificent).

When We Leave has a similar feel to Eick’s last albums, Ravensburg and Midwest, which in this case is not a bad thing at all. It features the same core members as Ravensburg. There is a cohesion here, a genuine band sound, that only occurs with a working, touring band. Eick is an excellent composer of almost—dare I say it—hooky jazz infused with folk elements. It’s easy-to-digest comfort food for the spirit. The melodies are often memorable, even singable, yet somehow he avoids triteness and sentimentality. There’s a universal quality to his music. His burnished trumpet sound, while far from incendiary, has a kind of power and warmth that really imbues the instrument with his humanity. What comes out is often reflective, sometimes ruminative and sad, sometimes hopeful and at times, epically triumphant. There is an optimism to Mathias’ writing and playing that I find uplifting in these troubling times.

This album is a series of tone poems with simple titles like “Loving,” “Caring,” and “Turning” that seem to suggest that everything is going to be alright. Yet for all his melodicism and seeming simplicity, there is hidden complexity in these graceful arrangements and a level of detail that invites the listener to revisit them again and again.

As in the last release, Ravensburg, violin and Hardanger player Hakon Aase continues to add his special magic to the proceedings. Who would’ve thought trumpet and violin could blend so seamlessly? In a way, Aase is really the secret sauce in this group. Personally, I believe Eick’s musical identity really began to coalesce when he brought in Aase and crystallized the current lineup. Aase is a very original improviser; often his playing evokes the stark winter landscapes of northern Norway. While he evinces a strong understanding of Norwegian folk traditions, he’s also an out-of-the-box player who is capable of surprising the listener, sometimes taking sonic journeys through other musical landscapes. But it’s his rootsy-ness that I find so attractive and which brings a certain depth and mystery to the mix.

Besides the usual trumpet, violin, piano, and drums, the album has pedal steel guitar, played by guest artist Stian Carstensen. Usually associated with country music, the pedal steel is far more versatile and can fit into other genres, conjuring a feeling of keening longing, and sometimes evoking otherworldly atmospheres. I remember once seeing Harold Budd conduct a choir that was accompanied by pedal steel, Fender Rhodes, and harp. I had never heard anything like that before. The pedal steel lavishly slid from one beautiful sonority to another, chords hanging in the air like ripe apricots. Such is the way the pedal steel is used here, as a color, a kind of organic pad for the music to rest on.

My only criticism of this album (and indeed the last couple of Eick’s releases) is that at 37 minutes, it seems a bit short. But it’s all good stuff. Perhaps the thinnest track is “Flying”—it’s certainly the least structured piece on the album. But there’s a lot of deep listening going on and it is growing on this listener, as indeed the whole album continues to do. Eick keeps on delivering albums that hearken back to ECM’s seventies glory days, and the world is better for it. 


Mathias Eick: trumpet, keyboard, vocals
Hakon Aase: violin, percussion
Andreas Ulvo: piano
Audun Erlien: bass
Torstein Lofthus: drums
Helge Andreas Norbakken: drums, percussion
Stian Carstensen: pedal steel guitar

This entry was posted on Sonntag, 17. Oktober 2021 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:


    That is to say: yes, my friend! (But, I, too, like the „Flying“ track.)

    I was just listening, five times in a row, to that Dennis Brown reggae song „Things In Life“.

    Delivers something very different and similar as WHEN WE LEAVE does, in its own peculiar way.

    And, that was now my last night program centered around new albums within the first two hours. My last radio night in December (if it happens) will be pure time traveling. Old paths opening up nuff horizons, mysterious travelers, tale spinnin‘, and all!

  2. Jan Reetze:

    I’m just listening to Eick’s “Ravensburg” from 2018 — another beautiful one!

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