Review by Brad Walseth
Scorching is right. When you first put this Cd on and guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim is burning it up ala Hendrix you might think you accidentally picked up a heavy metal power trio recording. That, combined with the black and white cover art featuring a skull, might lead you to think of one of the many Scandinavian death metal bands who thrive by assaulting your senses. The initial onslaught may be too much for many, which is a shame, because this is a recording that covers a lot of ground from the hard and heavy to the quiet and mysterious in a compelling manner.
The opener, "Kjole Hole," sees drummer Paal Nilssen-Love hitting on all cylinders, skins and cymbals, while bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten adds repetitive low end propulsion. Both of these players are quite familiar to Chicago jazz fans, as Haker Flaten now lives here, and both have played with Chicago avant garde icon Ken Vandermark. Guitarist Bjorkenheim meanwhile summons up a sonic maelstrom of swirling guitar sounds ranging from psychedelic wah-wah pedals to dirty distortion. Listeners are reminded of rock power trios like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as ensembles like John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra and Robert Fripp's King Crimson, but there is also a free form jazz influence similar to Albert Ayers, or Pete Cosey's work with Miles Davis on Pangaea.
From the over-12 minute burner, the music now enters into a space-filled echo chamber on "Synna Vegga." The free form interplay here reminds me of Vandermark's "Free Fall" group of which Haker Flaten is a member. The squeaks, rattles, string scratches and electronics make for a landscape of beautiful and broken imagery.
"Brennj Fynnj" again features Nilssen-Love's active drumming, over which Bjorkenheim and Haker Flaten trade riffs. The guitarist here uses a clean sound and relies on his imaginative twists. Meanwhile, "Furskunjt" finds Bjorkenheim employing his slide to excellent effect in another hot number.
"Snaeke Rojnd Naevinj" paints Bjorkenheim's sheets of sound across the canvas, under which Nilssen-Love keeps continuous motion and Haker Flaten holds gentle tones.
The title track ends the recording, and finds Bjorkenheim and his band mates in a heavy mode again. This may be the most successful composition and finds the group working together beautifully. Haker Flaten's occasional use of a flange on his bass is effective, Nilssen-Love seems on the verge of exploding on the drums, and the shredding Bjorkenheim's palette of sounds is remarkable. This album ends with quite a bang.
This isn't music that will please everyone. But for those interested in the unusual, and fans of guitar pyrotechnics over a freight train rhythm section, interrupted by moments of improvisational sound collages, the Scorch Trio may be just what you are burning for.