Scorch Trio

Rune Grammofon

n the late ‘90s, Paul Schütze issued two of the strongest releases of the post-fusion era, the Phantom City recordings Site Anubis and Shiva Recoil: Live Unlive. Given the participation of musicians like bassist Bill Laswell, trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, and drummer Dirk Wachtelaer, no one should have been too surprised when the albums powerfully resurrected the pioneering spirit of bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the Decoding Society, and Last Exit. While Raoul Björkenheim’s guitar playing also factored heavily into the Phantom City recordings, they sound like bucolic warm-ups compared to the blazing intensity he stokes throughout Luggumt. With Björkenheim ably abetted by the Norwegian rhythm section of bass player Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, the follow-up album to the aptly named trio’s 2002 debut frames four shorter tracks with two tour de force, twelve-minute meltdowns. The album’s incredible roar was captured live to tape without overdubs or edits during two studio sessions in January 2004.

While Björkenheim’s playing reveals a strong kinship with Sonny Sharrock and John McLaughlin, Hendrix’s presence looms most vividly on this outing. “Kjøle Høle” erupts out of the gate with a blues-based, free-form attack, all flailing drums and searing guitar rawness, Björkenheim at one moment channeling Robert Fripp’s piercing tone and in the next annihilating it with burning squalls of psychedelic wah-wah. The intensity level is volcanic and, while the track threatens to derail in its most frenetic moments, the trio holds it together with the rhythm section somehow managing to follow the guitarist’s incendiary lead. When the piece winds down to a scorched close, it echoes Coltrane’s A Love Supreme as it enters calmer waters during its last quarter. After that ear-splitting overture, the relative calm of the introspective “Synnja Vegga” comes as a relief, with the trio conjuring an explorative soundscape of creaks, groans, and scrapes.

Closer in form to a conventional jazz trio performance though still loose-limbed, “Brenni Fynnj” showcases Nilssen-Love’s gift for percussive colour alongside Flaten’s double-bass and Bjorkenheim’s cleaner tone, while “Furskunjt” demonstrates the guitarist’s deft blues-based slide playing. In the closing title piece, a simmering prelude of guitar snarls, tom-tom and cymbal rolls, and fuzz bass portentously foreshadows the track’s incipient frenzy with Flaten’s insistent pulse a rival lead to the guitarist’s free-form wail. The McLaughlin influence is felt most strongly here: the fleet runs that appear two-thirds of the way through strongly recall McLaughlin’s sound, and, if I’m not mistaken, the guitarist and bassist even quote the Mahavishnu epic “Dream” moments later. The three players show themselves ideal partners here, each one committed to nurturing the track’s forward momentum while equally hell-bent on broaching the material elastically.

The cover’s dark skull etching offers a visual analogue to the playing within, so be forewarned: Luggumt is one challenging and occasionally ferocious trip that continually shifts between episodes of control and chaos. Cross the wailing spirit of Hendrix with the experimental adventurousness of Coltrane and Miles and you’ll have a pretty good impression of its bold and intense sound.

Reviewed by: Ron Schepper

Reviewed on: 2005-01-12

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