The Allergies ‘Say The Word’ 2LP/CD (Jalapeno) 4/5

‘Say The Word’ marks the new album release from the Bristol-based duo that make up The Allergies, released through Brighton’s Jalapeno Records, the DJ/production pairing of Rackabeat and DJ Moneyshot have established their passion for breaks-filled dance floor funk over the course of four albums since 2016, which in of itself is a staggering achievement, not to mention the lengthy selection of single releases and EPs they’ve amassed in between their full-length projects.

And theirs is a sound that proves the perfect extension to the overall aesthetic of Jalapeno Records who have accumulated an incredible roster that includes many of the UK’s heavy hitters amongst the contemporary funk and soul landscape. To touch on just a small handful of the names that the label are able to boast, Smoove & Turrell whose ‘Stratos Bleu’ release of this year marks their sixth album release for Jalapeno; there are recent releases from fellow DJs and producers in Flevans and Dr Rubberfunk (‘Accumulate’ and ‘My Life at 45’, respectively), and of course what could only be referred to as dream-like acquisitions for any label, the powerhouse talents of vocalists Gizelle Smith and Izo FitzRoy.

The innumerable talents of The Allergies have indeed endeared themselves to Jalapeno’s incredibly loyal fan base. Over the course of their past releases, ‘As We Do Our Thing’ (2016), ‘Push On’ (2017) and ‘Steal The Show’ (2018), The Allergies have brilliantly captured the essence of classic funk and soul records, along with what everybody loved about the 90s golden era of hip-hop, and managed to repackage it all for modern day consumption.

‘Say The Word’ continues in the vein of traditional Allergies-esque compositions and themes but there are some interesting and innovative ideas presented on the album that excitedly pull their sound in new directions. Sticking with the familiar first – hip-hop is still very much the focal point for much of the album with a host of frequent collaborators featured throughout including Dynamite MC, Dr Syntax and Skunkadelic, along with the duo’s most frequent collaborator, Ugly Duckling rapper Andy Cooper who is credited on four of the album’s thirteen tracks. In fact, if anyone would have earned themselves the title of honorary “Allergy”, it would have to be Andy Cooper whose numerous collaborations between all three date further back then ‘Push On’ which also boasted a strong contribution from Cooper.

The Cuban Brothers provide vocals on the album’s single release, ‘Let Them Know’, which proves a particularly strong highlight as the song’s horn-heavy and Latin-inspired production presents an exciting new dynamic to what Rackabeat & Moneyshot have unveiled previously. Vocalist Marietta Smith is another welcome addition to proceedings credited on four of the album’s tracks including the high-energy and infectious album highlight, ‘Take My Love’.

Through each project that The Allergies release, their star seems to continually rise to garner them an increasingly higher profile and ‘Say The Word’ will almost certainly maintain their upwards trajectory. A solid release for fans of the hip-hop and breaks-inspired funk fusion which The Allergies – and to an extent, Jalapeno Records as well – have turned into an art form.

Imran Mirza

Chico Pinheiro ‘City of Dreams’ (Self-released) 4/5

Let’s face it, anything that makes you happy in these testing times has to be a good thing. This album brings a smile to my face. It warms the heart and reminds me of the good things in life. Over the last decade or so, guitarist Chico Pinheiro has become one of the leading lights in Brazilian music. Not only is he an exceptional instrumentalist, with a wonderful sound an effortlessly fluid playing style, but he is also a unique composer, as can be heard across many of his recordings. His CV looks equally as impressive, having worked alongside some iconic artists including Placido Domingo, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, Mark Turner and Eddie Gomez, to name but a few. Pinheiro now enjoys a revered presence inside and outside of Brazil, and this album will surely serve to enhance his growing reputation worldwide.

“City of Dreams” features Pinheiro on guitars and vocals, with Chris Potter on sax, Tiago Costa on piano and keys, Bruno Migotto on electric and acoustic bass, and Edu Ribeiro on drums. It’s a sparkling line-up, and together they make some wonderful music across the eleven tracks performed on this release. As a newcomer to Pinheiro’s music, on the basis of listening to this album in isolation, I would say it comes over as a very fine contemporary jazz album with clearly evident Brazilian heritage, rather than having an out and out Brazilian sound and feel to it. Either way, what it does have is some masterful musicianship paired with a lovely warm, feel-good sound.

The title track kicks off proceedings and it’s certainly one of the strongest tunes on the album. Pinheiro’s personality shines through in his music, and on this fabulous opener, the whole band shine brightly as they weave their way through some tremendous melodies, truly capturing the spirit of the guitarist’s exciting composition. Chris Potter supplies the fireworks on “Long Story”, a compelling piece that wouldn’t be out of place on any of Michael Brecker’s classic albums. One of my favourite tracks is undoubtedly the Latin-infused “Estrada Real”. Pinheiro’s acoustic guitar is beautifully rhythmic, and his vocals are sumptuously eloquent as his roots come to the fore on this spellbinding piece of music. There’s such an understated eloquence to Pinheiro’s playing, and on tunes such as “Gesture” and “Theme”, the guitarist teams up really well with pianist Costa, creating subtleties and nuances that are somewhat reminiscent of Metheny/Mays at their reflective best. Catchy hooks are at the forefront of the tunes “Invisible Lights” and “Up in the Air”, making them easily accessible whilst still being compelling and rewarding.

“City of Dreams” is one of those albums that brings out the metaphorical sunshine… whatever the weather. Strong performances from all of the musicians involved, along with some creative writing and production, make it an uplifting experience and an album that can’t fail to make you want to pour yourself a cool drink and put your feet up for a short while.

Mike Gates

Bab L’ Bluz ‘Nayda!’ LP/CD (Real World) 4/5

Gnawa and other North African musical styles flavour “Nayda!”, the debut of Moroccan-French group, Bab L’ Bluz. It’s the product of a meeting in Marrakech of lead vocalist Yousra Mansour and Brice Bottin. Brice plays the guembri, a three stringed instrument frequently played in Gnawa music and Yousra plays awicha, a smaller version of the guembri. As Mansour says “We use the awicha as a guitar and the guembri as a bass, both at different tunings.”

This is a fusion musically and is also reflected lyrically as Yousra sings in a variety of languages including Darija, standard Arabic and English. The ‘power quartet’ is completed by drummer Hafid Zouaoui and Jérôme Bartolome on flute and percussion.

Amid ululation and repeating guembris, “Gnawa Beat” is lively and catchy with standard rock drums. A tangible introduction to Bad L’ Bluz’s take of Gnawa music with western rock. Slower paced but sonically more interesting, “Ila Mata” is trippy with a psych, slightly dubby feel awash with fuzzy flange and electronic effects.

Mansour has stated that “more than anything we’re a rock band”, and on “El Gamra” it’s like Led Zeppelin’s Moroccan dabbling has come full circle. A crunchy power-chord intro and frantic riffing prevail. “Glibi” has a lighter touch and a cleansing purity. However, the thick, opulent soundscape combined with the simple melody of “Oudelali” is mesmerising.

“Waydelel” has a hooky call and response chorus and features manic ribab. The breezy “Africa Manayo” hints at pastoral afrobeat. The dense repetitive wall of sound on the stand out “Yemma” is truly a thing of beauty. “El Watane” has an interesting stop-start groove combined with yet another tuneful chorus. The closer, the eponymous “Bab L’ Bluz” swaggers with some robust riffing and drips liquid wah-wah.

“Nayda!” is an enjoyable and exciting mix of musical styles performed with vibrancy and lucidity. It is infectiously catchy, sonically sophisticated and very polished. Maybe I would have preferred a little more grit sometimes to rough up the shiny production but the sheer energy and imagination of the band is still intact and is captivating.

Kevin Ward

Freelektron ‘Live at Tenho’ LP (Jazzaggression) 4/5

This recording from Finnish duo Freelektron dates from a 2016 performance at Tenho Restobar Helsinki. The duo are drummer Ilmari Heikinheimo and multi-instrumentalist Jimi Tenor. Heikinheimo plays acoustic and electric drums, percussion and triggers while Tenor plays sax, flute, microKorg and even photophone! The vinyl version of the album is released in a limited edition of 250 copies.

Of the two musicians, the highly prolific Tenor has been around longer and played and recorded with a multitude of others including Kabu Kabu and Tony Allen. As well as being a musician he’s a visual artist and designer of his own instruments and stage costumes. Originally inspired by industrial music, Tenor started his recording career in 1988 with his band Jimi Tenor and the Shamans. He took his stage name by combining the name of his unlikely childhood hero Jimmy Osmond with his choice of instrument, tenor sax. His solo debut was in 1994, since then he’s made many albums in a variety of styles, smooth jazz-funk, heavy groove-based electronic music and collaborations with Afro-jazz musicians. A cultural magpie and child of the sixties this sensibility is reflected in whatever stylistic vehicle he happens upon.

Heikinheimo is the younger of the duo, born the year Tenor made his recording debut. As a member of the Afrojazz Quintet, he’s explored an interest in polyrhythmic drumming and rubato phrasing. Heikinheimo also played with Sound and Fury during their 2010 memorial concert for founding member and legend of Finnish jazz Edward Vesala, taking Vesala’s place on drums in the band. Heikinheimo has also worked with jazz improvisers Juhani Aaltonen, Jonas Kullhammer and Hjilmar Jensson. Not only does he play jazz but also Avant-Garde progressive music, notably with Alamaailman Vasarat.

Live at Tenho occupies an intersection between electronic and acoustic music. Some contemporary sounding rhythm and electronic texture combined with an almost nostalgic use of flute and sax. It’s an unlikely marriage but one that offers unique moments of harmony.

This is exemplified on the title track ‘Tenho’ the first four and a half minutes are occupied by Tenor’s airy flute accompanied by a percussive Eastern flavour. It’s that sixties sensibility I mentioned earlier, almost anything with a flute makes me think of music from 1969 or thereabouts. Once the flute is discarded the piece becomes tonally darker as Heikinheimo’s rhythms and Tenor’s electronic colours take the foreground.

‘Kaipuu Part One’ sees Tenor’s meandering sax weave its way around a series of pulses and electronic rhythms. There is an injection of humour into the yearning theme as the sax stutters and mimics the electronic rhythms in a surreal echo.

‘Kaipuu Part Two’ is the most free part of the album, Heikinheimo’s spare drumming competes with sounds akin to a bank of obsolete arcade games. The thing builds to a climactic crescendo but is pulled back from the abyss and held there with welcome structure provided by an organ theme before ending abruptly.

After listening to this album a couple of times I fished out my copy of Edward Vesala’s Nan Madol to try and figure out where these guys are coming from. Maybe I could hear part of Heikinheimo’s inspiration when Vesala alternates between light themes and more sombre tones and in the economy he used to punctuate the percussive space. Anyway, it gave me some traction for subsequent listens to the rest of this dramatic and inventive Freelektron recording.

James Read

Oiro Pena ‘2’ 10″ EP (Jazzaggression) 4/5

Oiro Pena is Pentti Oironen’s, aka Antti Vauhkonen, solo, looped and overdubbed, spiritual jazz funbag. Or should I say it was? Since the last EP, Oiro Pena (a nickname bestowed upon Antti by drummer Aleksi Tanhuala) is no longer a solitary pursuit. It is growing into a small family unit with Keijo Koskenharju on bass/guitar/percussion and Joona Hulmi on piano for half of this 4-track, 350 copy limited, 10” EP.

Oiro Pena’s music has previously been labelled underground, outsider, low-fi, folky; also energetic, astral, psychospiritual, warm; and akin to Sun Ra and Moondog. Can’t really argue with any of that and If I was in a rush (and not obliged to meet a word count) that could easily be the review pretty much finished. But I’m not in a rush and I want to spend some time contemplating if Oiro Pena 2 is benefiting from its newly formed family ties.

“Teelukissa” is a campfire-warmed congregation of like-minded, closed-eyed, souls feeling the spirit lift and complete them. Swaggering flute (always a good thing) freely gambols as a flabby Koskenharju bass holds down a loose, yet angular, groove and percussion and balalaika sprinkle dizzy, compelling fervour.

“Awrir” continues the embracing Organic Music vibe with the flute acting as pied piper leading the gyrating laity of ektara, balalaika, bass and percussion as they build a rhythmic chant, twirling and whirling through imagined dusty streets. Sax then takes over at the pulpit, emphatic and eloquent, as a ganged Don Cherry vocal lifts the now humanised chant higher.

“Lof” is freer than the preceding tracks – it starts with a hauntingly beautiful Vauhkonen melody that expands and evolves over a lit up, astral-skied, modal workout that nods appreciatively at Trane. Piano and flute commune and explode, propelling us past the Clangers to happily revisit that passionate opening melody.

“Love and Marriage” is by far the most apt version of Van Heusen & Cahn’s tune I’ve ever heard. It’s old-timey clownish, messy, tipsy, vaguely discordant and hugely affectionate suggesting that Vauhkonen has either lived in matrimony (I love you, Nicky. x) or uber-empathically observed it. Hulmi’s piano solo is perfection, unapologetically bursting in through the saloon doors and disrespectfully downing peoples drinks before knocking over tables. It’s an uproariously incongruous end to this EP.

The sincere zeal of Oiro Pena 2 is infectious. It is deeply warm-hearted; fulfilling like a big hug from someone that you enjoy hugging you. It’s a coherent step on from the first EP too, benefitting from the extra 2 pairs of conferring hands. And I now hear that a further new sibling has arrived! – Oiro Pena’s forthcoming LP has the trio grow into a free-improvising quartet. Not only that but the idea of “Oirolan suku” (the Oiro Pena family), a bigger band, with harmonica and violin is something that Vauhkonen is “gonna look into”. All good news cos I, for one, look forward to hearing what his growing family creates next – not least because it’ll give me a warm, comfortable place to go when I need a big, low-fi, spiritual hug.

Ian Ward

JAF Trio ‘JAF Trio’ LP/CD (We Jazz) 3/5

JAF Trio is a promising young Finnish-Danish band featuring saxophonist Adele Sauros, bassist Joonas Tuuri and drummer Frederik Emil Bülow. After a string of lauded live performances over the past couple of years (the band was awarded the “We Jazz Rising Star” accolade at We Jazz Festival in 2017), the trio felt ready to hit the studio and record their debut album.

Stylistically I am reminded of sax-bass-drums trios such as JD Allen and Chris Bowden; strong compositions with well-integrated musicianship being the order of the day. And although JAF Trio doesn’t hit the heights of the aforementioned artists, they appear to be developing a similar feel and focus. They are a tight unit, with a keen perspective on where they want the jazz to take them, performing very well together as a unified threesome.

The sax, bass and drums are right there at the forefront together, creating a strong presence. The original material of the band has depth and groove alike, at times leaping forward with giant steps, at times calming things down to really stretch time. The music is pleasingly melodic and rhythmic, with a nice balance between organisation and improvisation.

There’s a great feel to tunes like “Nostalgia” with its driving bass and drums laying the foundation for some excellent grooves and soloing. I also very much like the way this trio is confident enough to mix things up a little. Small, mature touches like allowing each other the room to manoeuvre on a tune and intuitively dropping back or coming to the fore, depending on the feel of the music as it develops. There’s a keen sense of playfulness in the repetitive riffing on “Something New” and an air of sombre melancholy on “Shades of Tomorrow”, revealing a more reflective side to the trio.

JAF Trio show a lot of promise on this, their first studio recording. There’s kinetic energy throughout the album which makes for compelling listening. Definitely a trio to keep an eye on, it’ll be interesting to hear how they develop in the years ahead.

Mike Gates

Anders Bast & the Bast’ards ‘Through Space & Time’ 180g Vinyl (Bastsax) 4/5

Perched somewhere between the modern jazz boughs and the contemporary twigs on the Danish oak tree of jazz sits this bright orange 180g vinyl (pink when raised to the light) offering from Anders Bast & the Bast’ards out of Copenhagen. It doesn’t take much effort with a band title like that to conclude the quartet are having a little fun here on ‘Through Space & Time’, due for release this coming Autumn, as Anders Bast on Saxophone teams up with Tobias Dall Mikkelsen on double bass, Michael Dalgas on drums and Thor Madsen on guitar for a nine-track Bast’ards debut.

Bast’s previous collaborations with luminaries Lars Jansson, Bob Moses and Django Bates and a spell beside Soweto Kinch adds credence to the evolving saxophonist, here with his fourth release as a bandleader donning a master degree in music from New England Conservatory under his belt. Tobias Dall Mikkelsen joins the group after a spell this year with the Niels Lan Doky Trio, Michael Dalgas has his own trio release this year called ‘Death Of A Tree’ and Thor Madsen is currently promoting his ‘Thor De Force’ – a productive group of individuals with their own sound and directions.

The needle goes down on ‘Fat, Sugar, Salt & Tragic’ with one of the stand-out piece on the album starting up proceedings. All four driving an exceptionally lyrical number that swings, with some creative sax work – the obvious choice for the opening track. At the midway point, Thor Madsen’s guitar technique swells and captivates and whilst there are no loose ends here, it’s his sound that I leave this piece clearest in my appreciation.

We drop back in bluesy form for ‘South of North Dakota’ as I scramble to prove to myself this, and all the other compositions here, are penned by Anders. Its familiarity can only be a testament to his writing skills.

‘Dance of the Possible Kiss’ delivers in huge proportions the skill of the four on this the longest piece, and perhaps the real gem, from the album, with a modern-creative aggression that could easily compete with most of the big names on the scene this year, before we close on side A with ‘Happiness Always Happens’, a rich European sounding number highlighting Michael Dalgas to these ears as one to keep an eye on. It’s a happy piece, a rhythmic delight to play over and over, as I have done so these past few weeks.

Flipping over the heavyweight orange disk, itself a sensory delight for this sunny feelgood listening experience, we are presented with ‘Think With Your Heart’, showcasing again Thor Madsen on guitar, whose style of playing is most enjoyable to these, otherwise electric guitar avoiding ears. Bast takes the number further while Mikkelsen and Dalgas work superbly together holding it all in place.

‘The Humble Warrior’ gives birth to Anders Bast’s solo saxophone explorations through overlays and his opportunity to express and experiment ahead of the album’s own foot shuffling ‘Hotter than…’ number. This has to be the go-to encore piece for the band on stage – uplifting.

The groove is making its final passes when ‘A Lot Of Hugging Going On’ enters the speakers. The pace has dropped and there’s even a groove going on as we escape to a happy place ahead of the final number, ‘Blues For The Beast Within’, which title aptly sums up the piece – a little darker than the rest of the album.

Standing out, listening to this album, has been the group’s flow and the production refinements. On the topic of production, I couldn’t be happier. The crispness of the drum made this experience a real pleasure. So often the music can be great but let down by the ‘sound’ – not so here. An excellent showcase for four musicians to release something that looks wonderful, with credit to Ella Mežule’s artwork, sounds great and delivers itself in a dynamic way with not a sign of illegitimacy anywhere!

Steve Williams

Louis Matute Quartet ‘How Great This World Can Be’ CD (QFTF) 4/5

Among all the CDs I was forwarded to review; it was the title of this one that captured my attention, especially in the trying times the world is currently going through.

By its title alone, the album conjures a feeling of hope and positivity, which after all, is what we all need right now.

The album is bright with light and reveals pure honesty. Winner of the Cully Special Jazz Prize in 2019, Louis Matute is a rising star in Switzerland, his native country, where he is contributing to the development of the jazz scene.

‘How Great this World Can Be’ is his second album and he is joined by Léon Phal on tenor saxophone, Nathan Vandenbulcke on drums and Virgile Rosselet on double bass, who was already present on his previous album, Telepathy.

The album opens up with ‘Birds’, a calm tune at first but which progresses quickly as the tension between the saxophone and the rest of the instruments increases, leading to a bass solo which is almost timid before the guitar takes over, propelling the tune into a limitless soundscape. This is freedom; Matute is abounding with energy, backed up by some sharp drumming before it is soothed again by the saxophone which brings the tune to a close. To me, ‘Birds’ encapsulates the main emotion of the album – happiness created by an equally simple and complicated concept as that of freedom.

Ineffable is an interesting tune where the energy is almost kept in check as if it was some truth that is hinted at but not quite wanting to be expressed fully. It is only towards the end that it develops slightly but it is soon toned down by the refrain.

‘Argile’, with its eerie beginning, is my personal favourite composition on the album. To me, it evokes fragility. It is a tune full of sensibility, like the beauty of water lapping the shore. It is a peaceful tune, which is used to good effect to demonstrate the reflective side of Matute’s emotions.

Cranking up a notch, the album moves along nicely with ‘Dügü’, a tune whose origin is discernible in world music. With a refrain that is strongly reminiscent of traditional South American music, it is a lively tune with a brisk tempo and which is peppered by some swinging chops in the background.

‘How Great this World Can Be’ is a mellow, even meditative, tune where Matute offers the listeners a subtle cohesive melodic line. He drifts in and out of it with ease, always staying within the boundaries, showing off a certain humility that shows his command, and his love, for the instrument.

In contrast, Matute and Phal both take on a bit of an attitude on ‘Manga Feo’ and ‘Scuact’ and we are all too happy to hear it come through. It is always fun to break a relatively smooth album with some vamp where musicians can stretch themselves and engage in a more fiery dialogue.

The album concludes with ‘Botafogo’ (from the Portuguese literal meaning “set it on fire”), a tune which displays an engaging saxophone solo with a boppish accent and which is broken by Matute’s serene guitar.

All in all, this is a fun album. It includes some good jazz solos, which make you sigh with pleasure, and the ideas flow beautifully. I understand that Matute dedicated the album to the people in his life who, and I quote, “have inspired me without knowing it.” Isn’t that the best part of life and connections? In that sense, Matute’s album arrives timely to the world’s crisis; the message is clear – be kind to one another, just for the sake of kindness, without any expectations, and be grateful for this beautiful life of ours.

Nathalie Freson

GEE-O ‘From The Concrete’ (Self-released) 4/5

‘From The Concrete’ is the new project from Miami-based producer, beat maker and DJ, Gee-O.

From his first release – aptly entitled ‘First’ and released back in 2006 – Giovanni Ocasio delivered the first of what would become an extended series of releases over the course of the next fourteen years. While ‘First’ presented a ten-track compilation of Ocasio demonstrating his remixing chops for the likes of Jay-Z, Nas and Lupe Fiasco, everything since has served to reinvent the project that came before it.

Hip-hop may well have been the genre that helped to establish the name “Gee-O” and helped to channel his creativity the best – having become renowned for his instrumental, beats style releases – subsequent projects have seen his incredible talents demonstrated through compositions inspired by house and dance music (‘Sexy’, 2019), electro and trap music (‘The Experiment’, 2017) and even Japanese anime (‘Manga Dreams’, 2018). There’s the ambitious Beatles mash-up project (‘Gee-O vs The Beatles: Mash-Up Fields’, 2014) and the genuinely inspirational scope of ‘At Night’ which, over the course of the album’s sixteen tracks, charts a different time of night from 7pm to 6am the next morning. Genuinely, Gee-O’s Bandcamp page is a wormhole of creativity and a love letter to the art of music making.

Even exploring projects beyond the above, Ocasio’s production on the self-titled EP release by Nadège Nightingale further demonstrate his abilities this time within the R&B and pop realms – evidenced through the infectious energy of ‘Note 2 Self’ and its accompanying Dancehall Remix.

‘From The Concrete’ brings everything back to the start with an eighteen track selection of instrumental hip-hop numbers that pull from a variety of inspirations and musical styles. ‘Life’ sees Ocasio again tipping his hat to those alternative dance aesthetics while ‘Baby’ presents a nice contrast with a more traditional soul sample providing the backbone of one of the project’s strongest numbers. ‘Times Are Changing’ absolutely warrants special mention however as its effortless marrying of jazz and hip-hop will garner repeated listens.

‘From The Concrete’ is a really excellent project – presenting not only an excellent showcase of Ocasio’s talent and skill, but also a really fitting portrait of an artist continually looking to push through boundaries and to challenge himself to deliver something new with each project he throws himself into.

Imran Mirza

Undergrünnen ‘Ein revnande likegyldighet’ LP (Jansen) 4/5

Perhaps I’m too young, cynical or jaded to enjoy psychedelic rock generally. The more contained freneticism of Roky Erickson is about as much as I can stomach, usually. There is a generational disconnect that perhaps I cannot ford, especially with the seeming never-ending fetishizing of the subculture. From Ken Kesey to the modern cliché of “(insert banality here) … on acid” makes me cringe. I cannot seem to separate the pointless murder of Meredith Hunter from the narcissism of much of the music. But, nevertheless, the music was a chaotic melange and a counter-cultural revolution that spreads its gaudily coloured wings into the present day.

Reading the press notes on this record by Norwegian psy-rockers Undergrünnen, I had my reservations. The saving grace was the mention of The Monks, who I admire as a slight antidote to more earnest, self-important bands of that era. Lo and behold, “Ein revnande likegyldighet” delivers a refreshing take on what I see as a bit of an over-flogged horse.

With gusto, this six-tracked pulls a quick, thrilling stunt and then gets on its way, presumably to play another damp bar. Crucially, for my pleasure, there is a careful balance on display. The production is taut and clear, rather than sagging and washy. There are enough instrumental elements to create the dizzy atmosphere, but not so many that it feels like a come-one-come-all jam session. Only two of the six tracks scale over the four-minute mark, creating two pitons of sonic crag. The rest are digestible morsels. Cramming in as much punk as there is psychedelic grunge, the drumming is relentless, the bass riveting the whole lot together and the organ hissing, slurring and spluttering in the background. Pål Jackman’s vocals are drawn out, open-throated and conservative in range, and his guitar somewhere between Nile Rodgers and Marc Ribot.

It’s sprawling chase music, sounding like an aural interpretation of Vanishing Point conducted by Bo Hansson. I listened to the record and am writing this review with no understanding of any of the lyrical content, but the chorus of backing singers and arrangements give ample texture for it not to bother me. There is tension, frustration, defiance and solidarity in every track, performed crisply, without pretension and with superb energy. Some might suggest this is ersatz psychedelia, but I disagree. Taking the route of a shot-in-the-arm rather than a miasma of reverb and idealism, “Ein revnande likegyldighet” manages to surprise, excite and entertain in a shorter run-time than the sleeve notes to most “classic” albums, and I applaud them for it. It’s Ennio Morricone on acid.

Thomas Pooley-Tolkien-Sharpe

Astral Travelling Since 1993