98

Rodent: Beautiful Monster

Matthew Wuethrich By

Sign in to view read count
Rodent: Beautiful Monster Designer Örn Ólason's bedraggled, somewhat sinister cartoon rats adorning the cover of the pan-Nordic quartet Rodent’s debut Beautiful Monster perfectly reflect the group’s ten original, witty compositions. Cartoon characters like Wiley E. Coytoe have long been noted for their flexible ability to weather lethal accidents, and Rodent posses that same elasticity. While attending the Danish Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium, reeds player Haukur Gröndal and drummer Helgi Sv. Helgason, both Icelanders, formed the quartet with the Finnish trumpeter Jarkko Hakala and Norwegian bassist Lars Tormod Jenset, with the intent to play only their own compositions. Beautiful Monster represents the culmination of three years of touring and writing. The quartet brings to life their spare, compact compositions with taut solos, dynamic rhythm changes and a sharp, adaptable wit.

When choosing and interpreting their raw materials, Rodent displays the artistic and technical malleability of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But where the AEC crafted an expansive melting pot, Rodent hones their inspirations to a sharp, personal edge. When they do borrow from other sources, they focus their pieces by taking only a core idea. Jenset powers “Alphonso” with a rapidly throbbing jungle bass line, which Hakala and Gröndal counter with effervescent solos that lope with joyful, soul jazz gait. “Mekkano” begins as a lurching stomp, then dissolves into a floating dialogue of dissonantly aching phrases between bowed bass and muted trumpet. The group employs a jump cut technique on “Evil Beaver,” switching between a sludgey ominous rock pulse, wrapped in Hakala’s slurred ruminations, and a free pulse passages, where Gröndal, on clarinet, unleashes trilling washes of notes.

Each member of the quartet supports these strong compositions with individual voices both technically adept and adventurous. Jenset switches easily between powerful rhythmic lines and arco musings, accompanied by Helgason’s restrained timekeeping and detailed accents. “The Donkey on the Mountain,” “Improvisation,” and “Pasquale” feature Hakala’s investigations of the trumpet’s more vocal qualities, which at times descend into airy splutters and wheezes, only to re-emerge as piercing tones. Gröndal examines the mysterious edges of the clarinet on “Donkey on the Mountain,” and on “Podex,” the luxurious energy of the alto sax.

With such subtleties in their playing, it is a shame that the recording feels slightly one-dimensional. More depth—a clearer sense of foreground and background—would have heightened Hakala’s breathy overtones and Gröndal’s sharp tone, giving the album even more character.

Rodent shares one more feature, this one related to craft, with cartoons: elegant simplicity. The best comics art communicates its message with a severe economy of line, word and structuring. With their compositions and playing, Rodent achieves the same, crafting a bold, yet delicate balance.

Track Listing: 1. Repp 2. Pasquale 3. Evil Beaver 4. improvisation 5. Alphonso 6. Mekkano 7. Sulta 8. The Bald Guy 9. Podex 10. The Donkey on the Mountain

Personnel: Haukur Gr

Year Released: 2004 | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Soul Garden CD/LP/Track Review Soul Garden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Authorized Bang Collection CD/LP/Track Review The Authorized Bang Collection
by Doug Collette
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Burnt Hibiscus" CD/LP/Track Review Burnt Hibiscus
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 27, 2017
Read "The Time Verses" CD/LP/Track Review The Time Verses
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Prague After Dark" CD/LP/Track Review Prague After Dark
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 16, 2017
Read "Clean Spring" CD/LP/Track Review Clean Spring
by Budd Kopman
Published: June 21, 2016
Read "The Frog, The Fish and The Whale" CD/LP/Track Review The Frog, The Fish and The Whale
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 24, 2016
Read "Blues Revival" CD/LP/Track Review Blues Revival
by James Nadal
Published: August 18, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!