Based in Copenhagen, Bremer/McCoy is an instrumental duo comprised of Jonathan Bremer on double bass and Morten McCoy on keyboards and tape delay. Starting off as a reggae group when still at school, the Danish duo’s sound has gradually evolved since their début in 2013 into an exquisitely airy and soulful synthesis incorporating a multitude of influences, from dub to jazz via downtempo electronica, Nordic folk and modern classical music. Released on New-York-based label Luaka Bop on 29 October 2021 last, Natten is the duo’s fifth full-length album.
On Bremer/McCoy’s first two releases for the Danish label Raske Plader – Enhed (2013) and Ordet (2015) – four tracks follow a very recognisable dub/reggae template with a bouncing bass line, an offbeat piano rhythm and a melody line on Fender Rhodes. Over time, the duo have moved away from the classic Jamaican roots of the style but have instead incorporated many elements from the dub culture in their approach to composition, performance and recording.
Bremer/McCoy’s music is entirely instrumental, minimal and grounded in a warm analogue sound where both keyboard and bass are on an equal footing. The duo always perform or record their music live and travel with their own homemade sound system. Surrounded by keyboards – an upright piano, a Fender Rhodes or a Wurlitzer, Morten McCoy elicits a never-ending call and response dialogue with Jonathan Bremer’s upright bass over short melodic vignettes which seem to work as blueprints for much longer jams in a live situation. Morten McCoy also makes use of a live analogue reel to reel tape recorder to add delay and echo effects.
Bremer/McCoy with the Novo Quartet: “Determination” from Utopia (2019)
The duo have maintained their classic dub activities under a separate moniker- Livity Allstars – alongside a full band. Livity Allstars vol. 1 was released on the duo’s original label Raske Plader on 13 August 2020 last.
As well as alluding to the slow-moving and melodic jazz of the Tord Gustavsen Trio from Norway, Bremer/McCoy are also indebted to the music of Jan Johansson. In the early 1960s, the Swedish jazz pianist broke new ground by transposing a fiddle-based traditional repertoire of polskas, hymns, marches and herding songs to a minimalist piano and double bass configuration while continually toying with time signatures and modes. His wonderful 1964 Jazz på svenska with Georg Riedel remains to this day a landmark recording which has since prompted many musicians around Europe to revisit their own regional traditional repertoire through the prism of piano and jazz. Contemporary musicians such as Agnes Obel or the Esbjörn Svensson Trio also often quote the late Swedish pianist as a major influence on their music. Jonathan Bremer and Morten McCoy’s restrained approach to the double bass and piano formation draws undoubtedly on a similar dynamic, and a track like Åben Bog from their 2019 Utopia record is an obvious homage to Jan Johansson.
“I was just very grateful and humbled by simply being in that moment of time” notes Morten McCoy about the song “Gratitude”. An antidote to the frantic pace of modern urban life, each deliberately slow-paced melodic and brief composition sees the musicians magically hit their stride almost immediately, each piece as an ecstatic self-contained epiphany. The title track is even performed on the album as two different variations.
Natten is also an invitation to quiet reflection and spiritual contemplation, especially during the in-between twilight periods of the day as many of the song titles suggest – dawn (“Aurora”), dusk and night time (“Natten”) or moonlight (“Måneskin”) – “that regenerative time under the constellations when our lives look different”. And at all times, the hypnotic basslines in tandem with the glowing vibration of the vintage keyboards sustain a deeply felt and mellifluous music which celebrates the now.