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Tyft: Smell The Difference

Troy Collins By

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Smell The Difference is the third album by Icelandic guitarist Hilmar Jensson's metallic power trio Tyft, which features longstanding members Andrew D'Angelo (alto saxophone and bass clarinet) and Jim Black (drums). Since the late nineties, Jensson has explored the fertile territory between popular music and jazz improvisation, both with his own ensembles and Jim Black's Alasnoaxis. Where Black draws inspiration from melodic indie rock, Jensson delves deeper, into testosterone fueled heavy metal.

Augmented by horn players Chris Speed (tenor saxophone and clarinet) and Peter Evans (trumpet), this already impressive trio is given a more colorful palette to work with. Jensson continues to seed his compositions with angular melodies, unusual time signatures and pulverizing grooves, using the additional voices for orchestral impact.

Demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of underground music trends, Jensson adopts aspects of nu metal ("Smell The Goodness"), punk-funk ("Froth"), thrash metal ("Pittles") and power metal ("Flimbergeist") throughout this visceral set. Augmented with advanced harmonies, intricate polyrhythms, shifting tempos and ornate counterpoint, Jensson and company add surprising new wrinkles to these staid genres, while maintaining a cohesive sensibility.

As the group's foundation, Black embellishes driving rhythms with supple accents and ingenious fills while Jensson balances muscular riffing with dexterous fretwork and searing, feedback laced harmonics. Demonstrating their fluid approach towards form, they slowly deconstruct a punishing metallic riff on "Pittles," until all that remains are scattered fragments of speed metal clichés.

Founding members of the seminal quartet Human Feel (with Jim Black), D'Angelo and Speed's congenial interplay is informed by years of shared history. Their circuitous dialog on "Klondike" is emblematic, reveling in passionate, unfettered abstraction. The contrapuntal clarinet cadenza at the heart of the funky "Kryppa" reveals their tight rapport, while the dulcet opening to "Klinglet" showcases lyrical restraint—two brief reprieves from an otherwise aggressive set.

New to this scene, rising star Evans holds his own in veteran company, plying coruscating dissonances on "Froth" that are stunning in their tonal range. His solo on "Clifton" is a masterpiece of oblique variations, providing a conceptual bridge between Speed's fervid linearity and D'Angelo's caustic skronk. "Flimbergeist" features all three horns in a pithy collective exchange over Jensson and Black's ascending drama—controlled chaos as sanguine anthem.

Buoyed by enthusiastic guest contributions, Smell The Difference is a marked departure from the excellent Meg Nem Sa (Skirl, 2006). Embracing edgier facets of the underground for inspiration, Tyft forges ahead, blazing new paths for jazz and improvised music in the new millennium.


Track Listing: Smell the Goodness; Froth; Pittles; Kryppa; Klondike; Flimbergeist; Clifton; Klinglet.

Personnel: Hilmar Jensson: guitars; Andrew D'Angelo: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Jim Black: drums; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Peter Evans: trumpet; Joel Hamilton: electronics (4).

Title: Smell The Difference | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Skirl Records

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