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Scorch Trio - Luggumt

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Artist: Scorch Trio

Album: Luggumt

Label: Rune Grammofon

Review date: Jan. 27, 2005

The Rolling Stones harnessed the soul of Etta James and Bo Diddley, and contemporary representatives of the devil music - metal, rather than rock - have performed similar excisions, albeit taking more from Norse mythology and suburban boredom than from black music. (Unless, of course, rock-rap can be counted as cultural miscegenation and not just crossover marketing.) Jagger’s swoon on “Sweet Black Angel” mined the sort of pathos not regularly found in 20th century (white) pop music. This was the Stones’ version of white teenage rebellion, marketed to perfection.

Metal is more likely to be marked by angst as a formal quality, something to be expressed rather than the root of expression itself. Angst in and of itself is enough. Scorch Trio's Raoul Bjorkenheim hails from Finland, not far from the land of those Norse gods, and the band seems to have digested as much Sabbath as Coltrane, and regularly supplants the latter’s smoothly wrought figures with the raw power of the former.

But Scorch Trio does not play metal. Their pedigree reveals as much: Bjorkenheim, the band’s guitarist and leader, is a working composer and has played with such luminaries as ECM and Mats Gustafsson, who also plays with the band’s bassist, Haker Flaten. The band is rounded off by the extraordinary, musically erudite drumming of Paal Nilsen-Love.

Luggumt begins and ends with marathon burners, 12-minute guitar workouts reminiscent of Sonny Sharrock, with shockingly precise interplay between the musicians, who recorded all the tracks directly to analog tape without overdubs or edits. The four tracks between direct attention to deconstructed instrumentation common to both Sharrock’s contemporaries in the 1960s free jazz scene and Scorch Trio’s labelmates on the superb Norwegian experimental label Rune Grammofon. Despite its precision, Luggumt is marked by a certain angst and musical ferocity. A distorted guitar navigating skewed blues scales begins, “Furskunjt,” and is quickly joined by a slinky, anchored bass line that falls in and out of Nilsen-Love’s polyrhythmic bombast.

For the 1960s and early 1970s free jazz players, form could be traced in part to various cultural and social circumstances, though not explained by them. The immediate question begged by Scorch Trio: Where did this come from? Surely, not the suburbs or mythological tomes. Scorch Trio excels at harnessing the slight and often ironic disparity between form and content, imitation and appropriation, channeling tremendous overdrive and abstract soundscapes into a vibrant jazz idiom. Any angst feels self-contained, born from the interaction between players. Unlike Jagger’s rebellion, unlike early free jazz’s oftentimes radical politics, Scorch Trio’s sound leaves no easily identifiable trace or image of the outside world - which is not to say the band has not taken from it.

By Alexander Provan

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