Posted on Nov 29th 2010 11:05 pm
Rune Grammofon 2010
08 Tracks. 41mins52secs
Scorch Trio are frequently described as a power trio, a term originating with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The description is accurate inasmuch as its members convey a feeling of concentrated energy, but the music’s also alive with a huge amount of filigree detail, each musician contributing an intense filigree to the group hive mind, interspersed with signature passages of blasted ambience. The group explore music that suggests Hendrix living alone on the frozen Russian steppes listening in to shortwave transmissions from the spirits of Derek Bailey and Sonny Sharrock. All the track titles are Puerto-Rican slang expressions – Melaza itself means “pure sugar cane juice, something sweet, fantastic.”
Kim Hiorthøy is to be celebrated for yet another distinctive Rune Grammofon cover: this time he replaces scribbled skulls for panels of calm tonal variations. It’s the visual antithesis of the group’s music and works perfectly. Until this, their fourth album, the Trio consisted of the two Norwegians, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, and the Finnish guitarist Raoul Björkenheim. Melaza sees Nilssen-Love succeeded by Chicagoan Frank Rosaly, perhaps best known for his involvement with Rob Mazurek’s Mandarin Movie.
Right from the get go, Raoul Björkenheim abuses his guitar to produce wails and roars while long-held notes like wretched laments sing out against the fast-paced sizzling of cymbals. Rosaly kicks the rhythm into motion with snare and bass drums. Björkenheim responds in kind, picking up speed, blurring runs into noise, notes rising up in rebellion to be spied momentarily against the wider maelstrom. All the while Håker Flaten’s bass pins the music together with tense musculature.
Bambalán begins tentative, then gets busy like moths flitting around a naked bulb in the dead of night: buzzing and sizzling – almost, but never quite catching flame in the filament blaze. Fajao unexpectedly almost breaks into dance, Håker Flaten supplying a limber chassis around which Björkenheim moves in fits and starts, ghost licks increasing in intensity in direct parallel with Rosaly’s calculated thrash attack.
Orita is strange, spacious and distinctly and gratifyingly not-European. It recalls lonely places further east of Björkenheim’s native Finland. There’s space to ruminate on the blasted present, the ruins to come, the strangeness of it all. Lesnu! is the endpiece to Melaza, at double the length of its longest predecessor it shows the three musicians spreading out, tracing weird, thrilling shapes against the tundra, its noise an extreme form of meditative silence.
Melaza is edge music, heading out past the borders into the wilderness to post readings and observations back to those hunkered down at home out of the wind.