Scorch Trio Brolt!

[Rune Grammofon; 2008]

Styles: free jazz improvisation madness
Others: Supersilent, Random Touch, Frode Gjerstad Trio

Scorch Trio do exactly what their name implies: bring fiery verve to improvisations that sometimes black out “music” almost completely, leaving little more than trebly electronic frequencies to smolder in the void. Beefy jams like “Olstra,” the first track off the group's third full-length, Brolt!, are littered with competing references that hitch this Norwegian group to two strains of ’60s music: hirsute rock (think Hendrix) and rangy free jazz. This dual pedigree could lead to a lot of self-indulgent soloing, but these guys have constructed an album — all analogue, with no overdubs or editing — that entertains the listener as much as it melts the fretboard.

On Brolt!'s opener, the seeds of a blues motif sprout vinelengths of spiky arpeggio. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten’s bass treads electrified water, caught between slap-bass twang and drunken, grumbly distortion, an anchor amid the frenetic whirlpools of sound generated by guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. “Basjen,” meanwhile, is a squeaky down-tempo number that relies more on menace than machismo. The guitar disappears and keening frequencies careen, like bats, past the shadows of melodies. It sets up a sort of chiaroscuro with the first track (a pensive dark answering “Olstra”’s heady light) that is sustained throughout the rest of the album. This light vs. dark dynamic (perhaps feral vs. caged is more precise) is compressed within “Gaba,” a track that accelerates deceptively over 12 minutes, as the heavily echoed guitar and bass trace tentative circles around Nilssen-Love’s percussive clusters. It ends up sounding like Arthur Russell being gradually lured into an acid-rock jam session.

By the end of the record, these guys seem like they’re just showing off, and why not? With so much talent, it would be a shame for them not to test the limits of their vocabulary. For all of its itinerant bluster, Brolt! ultimately lives up to its title, nailing you with the concision of a consonant-heavy expletive or, come to think of it, a thick Hendrix hook.

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