Posted on Dec 7th 2010 12:57 am
Rune Grammofon 2010
05 Tracks. 40mins44secs
Even to Rune Grammofon’s standards, Ultralyd are a pretty odd offering. Taking elements of contemporary experimental jazz, abstract composition, rock and heavy metal and fusing them together into something quite unique. Formed in 2004 when bass player Kjertil D Brandsdal joined the trio of saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, guitarist Anders Hana and drummer and percussionist Morten J Olsen, Ultralyd released their first self-titled album, published on UK imprint FMR Records, that same year, then a second, Chromosome Gun, a few months later on Load Records. Gjerstad left in 2006, and was replaced with Kjetil Møster, just in time to record their Rune Grammofon debut, Conditions For A Piece Of Music. Inertiadrome follows the very limited, vinyl-only album Renditions which Ultralyd published last year on RG’s sister imprint The Last Record Company.
Conditions For A Piece Of Music was quite an eclectic and angular affair, stretching from dark atmospheric to much more upfront and hard-hitting compositions. Focused around just five tracks of fairly equal length, Inertiadrome is a more concentrated and direct affair, which, despite some rare moments of calm, favours the deployment of heavy groove structures. The template is applied time and time again, each new assault proving more devastating than the last. Things kick off pretty gently with Lahtuma, with, at first, just fragments of sounds and noises dropping randomly, but, when Olsen brings in a shimmer of cymbals, it is only a matter of time until Brandsdal brings in a hypnotic bass pattern and sets the album on its way. The band ease themselves in gently though, as if they were only warming up, finding their feet again after a few months apart.
The driving force of the band is undoubtedly the partnership between Olsen and Brandsdal, but while the rest of the band are often slightly at the back of the two, Møster’s sax effusions regularly jump in with the rhythm section for a pretty unnatural ménage à trois. It is his contribution that sends Lahtuma into orbit, while strips of guitars float above it all, and it is his contribution again which binds the various components of Geodesic Portico or Cessathlon together, but it is on Street Sax that he really lets rip, pushing blistering phrases into the foreground, at times almost eclipsing the rhythm section. Geodesic Portico could at first appear more tamed and under control, but below the constrained sax and guitar loops, the drums and bass are bringing the whole piece to the boil, and maintain the pressure for most of the piece. On Contaminated Man though, it is Hana who steps up and inflicts a series of harsh and corrosive slabs of guitars into what is a rather abstract take on heavy metal, and while the quartet never quite reach such devastating heights on Cessathlon, the piece is propelled by incendiary sections where Hana and Møster take it in turn to confront Brandsdal and Olsen.
With this latest album, Ultralyd appear to have narrowed their field of experimentation, abandoning in part the near-musique concrète incursions, which had them team up with N-Ensemble for a masterful epic collaboration on Money Will Ruin Everything 2, to achieve much greater focus. The result is a record fueled with energy and angular moments where the intensity rarely drops out, and when it occasionally does, it is only to grow more devastating.