I'm not normally one to point and generalize based on geographical convenience, but the Norwegian music community has been making quite the impression internationally. While Norway's more popular exports (Röyksopp, Kings of Convenience, Jaga Jazzist) are undoubtedly making bigger splashes in the cesspool of mainstream consciousness, Norway's sonic subversions respectfully backstroke away from the media brouhaha. Electronic artists such as Nils Økland, Supersilent, and especially Arne Nordheim (underscored by black metal artists like Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Immortal) ensure the continued relevance of the Norwegian avant-garde on an international level.
But just because Norway is generating some top-notch experimental music, doesn't mean we should pretend that Norwegian music is fenced off from the wider, global avant-garde community. Saxophonist Jan Garbarek, for example, wasn't just farting around in Norway with Norwegian musicians when he achieved international popularity. So it shouldn't be surprising that Ultralyd -- a quartet of Norwegian improvisers -- sounds less like Nordheim or Garbarek and more like Japanese noise/jazz finger-fucking American noise from the Midwest. And it's also not surprising that it's got death metal influence to boot. After all, a collaboration between bassist Kjetil Brandsdal of Noxagt and saxophonist/clarinetist Frode Gjerstad (who has played with everyone from Derek Bailey to Peter Brötzmann) render such presumptions fairly accurate.
Chromosome Gun, the group's freshman release, isn't quite maximalism, and it's certainly not your typical free-jazz album. For one, discordant guitars blanket the proceedings, and two, there is a tangible amount of restraint, exemplified pristinely by Anders Hana's guitar playing. The word "noodling" simply doesn't apply to this album. It takes an almost intuitive sense of shared creativity to fashion something so deft and intricate that isn't marred with the pitfalls of ego-stroking improvisation. The elements employed are just too well-balanced and well-performed to sound like an elementary gathering of noise practitioners, and its production accentuates the oddball spontaneity and lopsided sparks so fundamental to this sort of free-jazz.
But what Ultralyd has that other free-jazz/noise ensembles do not is drummer Morten J. Olsen. While most jazz musicians are either content with a musically-trained jazz percussionist (which is not necessarily "bad") or a watered-down "rock" drummer (which is often bad in a jazz context), Olsen plays more in a style akin to Brian Chippendale, Damon Che, and Hisham Bahroocha. His contributions procure a dynamic that's less reliant on reed excess and more on physical force, a corporal element that's often glaringly absent from experimental excursions. I mean, c'mon; hasn't technology displaced humanity enough? Simply put, Chromosome Gun is one of the strongest albums released by Load Records, and the raw energy that's evoked is fucking unbelievable. A must for those taking notes on the noise/jazz cleavage.
2. Pink Mood
5. Brown Degree
7. Last Resort