Ultralyd: Inertiadrome (2011)
It's been nearly four years since Ultralyd released its 2007 Rune Grammofon debut, Conditions for a Piece of Music, and a lot's happened since that time. The members of this electrified quartet continue to weave their way through the fabric of the cutting-edge Norwegian improvising scene, ranging from the Coltrane-inspired, early Garbarek-tinged modal freedom of The Core's Office Essentials (Jazzland, 2008), which featured Ultralyd saxophonist Kjetil T. Møster, to the more structured attack of MoHa!'s One-Way Ticket to Candyland (Rune Grammofon, 2008), with the hard-hitting duo of Ultralyd guitarist Anders S. Hana and drummer Morten J. Olsen. Inertiadrome capitalizes on Conditions' broad soundscape but with a more decidedly relentless approach that makes it an album that's certainly not for the faint-at-heart; but for those whose tendencies lead to the more aggressive, rock-edged end of the improvising continuum, one with no shortage of rewards.
Not that Conditions didn't have its periods of extremity, but Inertiadrome largely dispenses with any of the atmospheric, spatial interludes; even the otherworldly sounds that introduce the album opener, "Lahtuma," only last a minute or so, before Kjetil D. Bransdal's grungy bass and Olsen's persistent cymbal work thunder into the core of the song, with Bransdal's repeating pattern alternating between bars of three and five, while Olsen layers a cross-rhythm to keep the pulse moving forward without ever resorting to something as straightforward as a backbeat. Hana's synthesizer and almost unrecognizable guitar tones create a psychedelic overlay that, as Møster enters with a repetitive baritone sax pattern and the guitarist begins to drive an iterative three-note line, seem like a distant cousin to Pink Floyd's spacey jams around the time of Ummagumma (Harvest/EMI, 1969).
The Pink Floyd references reappears later, as the 40-minute set concludes with "Cessation." Bransdal's tremelo'd bass is straight out of "One of These Days," from Meddle (Harvest/EMI, 1971), but without the safety net of either a rock pulse or easy-to-grab changes. Instead, Olsen's increasingly maelstrom-like kit work, Møster's high-pitched squeals and Hana's combination of expansive soundscapes and powerful but simple guitar lines, build to a climax that gradually dissolves into a 9/4 drum solo that ends Intertiadrome on an unconventional note.
In contrast to Conditions' twelve tracks, most of which ran under the five-minute mark (many under four), Intertiadrome's five lengthy tracksonly one under seven minutes, and "Cessathlon" approaching elevenmean that there's more time to explore, allowing Ultralyd time to build its collective improvisations at a pace that might be considered relaxed, were the music anything but so intensely driven. With little respite, few soft surfaces and plenty of sharp-edged peaks with very few valleys, Intertiadrome signals a fundamental shift for Ultralyd, even as it's a logical successor to the equally challenging but largely less assaultive Conditions for a Piece of Music.
Track Listing: Lathuma; Street Sex; Contaminated Man; Geodesic Portico; Cessathlon.
Personnel: Kjetil T. Møster: saxophones; Anders S. Hana: guitar, synthesizer; Kjetil D. Bransdal: bass; Morton J. Olsen: drums, vibraphone.
Record Label: Rune Grammofon