A Norwegian jazz academy has sprouted from the hills of Trondheim and promptly become something of a breeding ground for restive musicians. Here, it marks the intersection at which Supersilent member Stale Storlokken befriended drummer Thomas Stronen (whose efforts in the lauded avant-jazz ensemble Food have recently spawned another fine addition to the Rune Grammofon
catalogue in Last Supper
) and forged Humcrush
, a set of improvised, jittery electronics and truculent jazz. And, despite a predisposition towards improvisation, the proceedings are marked by cohesive structures, as though these were premeditated pieces of music unfolding along set paths, all the while maintaining a sense of spontaneity.
To hear opener "Acrobat" is to recognize Stale Storlokken's sonic wiles, but they appear more playful and loose than his academic pursuits with Supersilent. Amidst Stronen's rolling drum patterns, snare swats and cymbal crashes, Storlokken carefully plants his sloshy synth lines and warbling electric piano, until, as the piece progresses, these seeds sprout into a rather flamboyant din. "Sport'n Spice" sallies forth on much the same route; crude electronics, sounding like someone feverishly spitting cashews into a metal bucket, mingle with scattered percussive shots to form a polyrhythm, whilst a simple, four-note keyboard motif holds these disparate elements more or less together.
What leaves a most indelible mark is just how Humcrush
in tempo, chance occurrences of displacement and empty space, even as the pieces
sound meticulously crafted. This said, not all of them appear fully developed for
example, "In the Cave," with its jumbled electronics, sounds like
coins shaken about in a plastic bag. For a while, the electronics surface only
to fall back into hiding once again, as though unsure whether they ought to show
themselves; at long last they join hands with Storlokken's squall of keyboard
noise, lending something of a tangible shape and depth to the sound field. But
by this point the piece has largely sung its song and makes little further progress.
More notable are "Spectral Rock" and "Japan." At the onset of "Spectral Rock," crackling chimes are left largely on their lonesome to twinkle away intermittently, creating a wide-open sense of space which soon thereafter is followed by a dense weave of chirping electronics, filling the aural space like a horde of chanting monks.
Meanwhile, "Japan" is all synths spooling woozy tonal waves behind choral samples, with building static coils of notes that vibrate like serpent DNA at the heart of the track. Often, the effect is like a bird buzzing a hippopotamus, the electronics here, there and everywhere, the percussion static and sulky. The composition, like many on Humcrush
, has a sci-fi, almost absurdist quality, especially in the wayward bleatings of Storlokken's horn and keyboard passages.
Much in the manner of Black Dice's Creature Comforts, Humcrush
an eclectic assortment of mischievous, seemingly chaotic sounds, flowering in
a delectably melodic fashion. As an insightful rapprochement between improvisation
and composition, Humcrush,
though not without its problems, succeeds admirably.
Even more, these fruitful, at times roguish songs are simply a pleasure to hear.