Raoul Bj: Shadowglow (2004)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
There are moments on Shadowglow where Raoul Björkenheim and Lukas Ligeti achieve such an intuitive balance that it's hard to tell who's playing what.
Björkenheim is a percussive guitarist, Ligeti a melodic drummer who plays the kit (and a variety of other percussion instruments) with remarkable fluidity. Björkenheim is capable of making his guitar sound like a thumb piano, a gamelan, or a sandstorm. The two players are clearly listening, and the music breathes and swells accordingly. Noisy elements find their way in, but things never devolve into chaos. The way they shift gears and styles is uncanny, giving hints of telepathy across the disc.
"Olivezone," "Vicousphere" and "Niagra Mowhawk" are standout tracks where the two musicians merge seamlessly. Worldly and otherworldy influences are there to ponder: African (North and elsewhere) and various Asian musics creep in as well. None of it sounds at all forced, or anything other than organic.
Björkenheim and Ligeti avoid the trap of one-dimensionality that plagues many "new" improvisers. Most of the songs dance and propel themselves forward. Ligeti sets himself apart from the "free" world's hordes of Milford Graves/Sunny Murray imitators. The drummer is capable of playing polyrhythmic free time, which never strays too far from the body's natural movements.
The album, oddly, has its share of greyish-metallic moments. When they hit up-tempo crests, they reach heights most metal musicians should glimpse ("Ghosted Walls," "Red Turns Rain Gold," "Duoyell.") When they rock, they mostly avoid tepid fusion noodling. Some of the tracks get heavy while remaining subtly tempered at the same time. Their ability to pull off delicately tangled, harnessed ferocity, stop-on-a-dime navigation is scary.
It's appropriate that Shadowglow like many of its track titlesis a neologism. These are people pushing beyond the limits of language, verbal and musical. And it works.
Track Listing: 1. Into Fall
3. Niagara Mowhawk
4. Rain Turns Red Gold
5. Cogwheels of Speed
6. Shed and Torn
7. In the Flesh
11. Fountain Jewel
12. Changgo Valse
Personnel: Raoul Bj
Record Label: TUM Records
Style: Beyond Jazz