From Northern Denmark and based in Aarhus, Svaneborg Kardyb are a distinctive duo comprised of Nikolaj Svaneborg on Wurlitzer piano and Juno synthesiser and Jonas Kardyb on drums and percussions. Having first met in 2013, the two musicians gradually forged an uplifting, melodic and conversational style for keyboards and percussion and launched their first record together (Knob) in 2019 followed by Haven in 2020. Released on Matthew Halsall’s Manchester-based label Gondwana Records on 4 November 2022 last, Over Tage is the duo’s third full-length record exploring a minimal jazz and electronica-inflected ambient soundscape.

Svaneborg Kardyb - Over Tage (2022)
Svaneborg Kardyb – Over Tage (2022)

Two striking Danish duos, namely Bremer/McCoy (already mentioned in these pages) and Svaneborg Kardyb, have emerged in the last 10 years. Both stem from the radical minimalism introduced by Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johannsson (1931 – 1968) in the early 1960s. By transposing a fiddle-based Nordic folk music to a stripped-down piano and double-bass blueprint, the pianist suggested a move away from jazz standards and the American songbook in favour of a closer scrutiny of traditional music repertoires. As a result, the landmark Jazz på svenska (1964) for instance paved the way for countless traditional and jazz crossover projects all over Europe. Both partnerships are clearly inspired by folk music at large, but if the double bass/keyboard duo Bremer/McCoy is to a greater extent rooted in dub reggae, Svaneborg Kardyb is perhaps more indebted to the melodic and pop rock-infused music of Esbjörn Svensson Trio, and in particular the ballad dimension of the jazz band.

We’re composing from instinct, grasping on to one single idea and then letting it develop

A track like “Svalen” on the duo’s 2019 début Knob or “Terrassed​ø​r” (from the B-side of the Orbit single) are two of the rare compositions where Nikolaj Svaneborg is playing the acoustic piano. The vast majority of the repertoire is performed solely on the Wurlitzer piano, or on a combination of two keyboards – the Wurlitzer on the right hand for melody and a Juno synthesiser on the left hand for harmony, drones or loops. The chiming instrument generates a seamless vibration and even at times overtones that lend all compositions a warm and dreamy ambient flow which is continuously complemented by Jonas Kardyb’s assortment of chimes and cowbells.

Rather than a conventional beat keeper, Jonas Kardyb belongs to a more subtle school of melodic drumming with a flawlessly-tuned drum kit which is often softened with the extensive use of mallets to match the analogue glow of the Wurlitzer. In the absence of a bass player, the drum generates rich bass lines throughout. Elsewhere, there are hypnotic Calypso patterns on “Orkaner” and muted cowbells at the end of “Orbit” which emulate the sound of the tabla.

Since their début in 2019, Svaneborg Kardyb have always welcomed guest musicians such as vocalist Eline Hellerud Åsbakk on Knob’s “Et Lite Øyeblikk Bare”. Complementing the sound on several tracks, Over Tage features guitarist Sune Pors as well as trumpet players Jakob Sørensen and Jonas Scheffler.

Attuned to the seasonal changes, the duo’s music is pastoral and take its inspiration from the surrounding nature. The gorgeous Tiny Desk set for instance was captured in the living room of an old house overlooking the Danish countryside where much of the duo’s music is composed and rehearsed. Deceptively simple, repeated listening of Svaneborg Kardyb’s music slowly reveals an exquisite, mellow yet always dynamic complexity in a constant state of flux.