MARVEL MACHINE: Volt/Revolt / LORD KELVIN: Radio Has No Future (Gigafon)

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Posted on Oct 31st 2011 01:09 am

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Marvel Machine: Volt/Revolt Lord Kelvin: Radio Has No Future

MARVEL MACHINE
Volt/Revolt
GIGA001
Gigafon 2011
11 Tracks. 50mins28secs

LORD KELVIN
Radio Has No Future
GIGA002
Gigafon 2011
16 Tracks. 41mins33secs

Volt/Revolt
Amazon UK: DLD US: DLD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

Norwegian guitarist Petter Vågan may be a member of many formations, but his latest project is of a somewhat different stature. Together with drummer and percussionist Gard Nilssen, he set up Gigafon with a focus on contemporary jazz and improv, and the label’s first two releases give them both the opportunity to showcase some very different strands of their work.

With Marvel Machine, Vågan heads a trio formed of Rune Nergaard (bass/electronics) and Henning Carlsen (drums/electronics). Hailing from Trondhiem, the three regularly perform in a number of formations each, but with this project, they aim to combine elements of avant rock, pop music, jazz, improvisation and electronica into a coherent whole. Entirely improvised, Volt/Revolt is quite a complex and at times difficult affair, more likened to noise and experimental rock than to jazz. While they alternate between moments of sheer energy and gentler, more introspective pieces, this record’s overall feel is one of incredible intensity and vigor.

Vågan’s acidic guitar textures often slices through clouds of electronics and Nergaard’s dense angular bass formations, while Carlsen hammers on in the background. At times, the trio opt for rather heavy rock structures (Plongcore, Meanwhile, Back On Earth, CircleKing, Shell Shock), but they usually resort to lighter and less incisive forms, which can be somewhat minimal, at least in design (Volt/Revolt, Nightmarchers, Horseplay), on which guitar and bass take on some particular acrid angular forms as processed distortions are magnified and dissected, while Carlsen assembles abstracts drum sections. Even when things calm down, tension is never far. Rimrocked for instance can appear ethereal and peaceful, but below the surface bubble up fragments of processed guitars which constantly threaten the balance of the piece. Fog Of War is equally ridden with underlying electric currents, and even album closer 9 To 5 Rebel, on which Marvel Machine are found at their most introspective, is fuelled with dormant energy.

Lord Kelvin is a very different beast altogether. Formed of Eirik Hegdal (saxophones, clarinet), Erik Johannessen (trombone) and Gard Nilssen (drums, vibraphone), the trio show a purer connection to jazz, but this brass-heavy formation approach things from a surprising angle. It seems almost unavoidable that they should pay some tribute to the man whose name they borrow, referencing key moments of his life (birth and death dates) and some of his work in the track titles. But they certainly keep well clear of the absolute cold the first Baron Kelvin calculated in 1848. Indeed, the unusual set up results in a series of warm and playful pieces, some so short that they appear like quick ideas thrown in and left in their raw state (the three tracks forming the album title, a quote from Lord Kelvin himself), or slightly more sketched out (The Mirror Galvanometer, June 26th, 1824, Fourier Is A Mathematical Poem), others are much more fully formed, yet retain a strong minimal feel, due to the band’s configuration.

There is something quite joyous running through the whole record though, especially as sax and trombone appear locked in intense dialogues (Baron Kelvin Of Largs, The Analog Tide Predictor, Kelvin’s Thunderstorm, Molecular Dynamics) as Nilssen drives fiery drum beats. On Improved Gyro-compass, he swaps drums for vibraphone for a much more gentle and rather beautiful piece on which Hegdal and Johannessen create a particularly refined miniature sonic tapestry.

These two radically different albums have very little in common, apart for the resolutely intriguing approach. Marvel Machine operate on the outer reach of experimental music, with strong connection to rock and noise, while Lord Kelvin indefinably find their ground within the confines of jazz. If the former’s debut album at times proves something of a challenge, its arid or heavy soundscapes and textures giving it a slightly somber appearance, the latter’s Radio Has No Future is a delightfully irreverent and playful collection.

Volt/Revolt: 4.2/5 / Radio Has No Future: 4/5

Gigafon
Volt/Revolt

Amazon UK: DLD US: DLD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

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