Ketil Bjørnstad's ECM discography is shaping up as a musical roman-fleuve on watery themes, and The Sea II follows Water Stories (recorded 1993), The Sea (1995), and The River (1996). Studio productions and touring of the last few years have served to sharply define the tasks of the individual players in Bjørnstad's band. Improvisation in this unit is concerned not so much with interaction in the conventional jazz sense as with cross-currents. England's Jazz Journal described the band's sound as "quintessential ECM tone poem music, with leader Bjørnstad's rubato and occasionally rhapsodic pianism cast very much in an adagio mould. Poetic and pensive in its rippling moods and keening delivery, with Darling's cello striking a typically meditative note, Christensen rolling and floating across barlines with customary sensitivity and imagination, and plangent passages of extraordinary, soaring intensity from Rypdal."
M. Inhoffen in stereoplay 4 / 98: "Darlings sonor sin-
gendes Cello, Christensens fein gewobener Schlagzeug-
teppich, Rypdals brillante, höchst eigenständige E-
Gitarren-Einwürfe und Björnstads sparsame Klavier-
akzente - all dies formt sich in dieser Meeres-Musik
zu einem rauschenden Fest des Klangs."