282

Box: Studio 1

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Box: Studio 1 Studio 1 not only represent the debut of a significant new group on the electronic improv scene, but a transatlantic supergroup at that, with musicians hailing from Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United States. Box was originally formed when writer/film-maker Philip Mullarkey brought together guitarist Raoul Björkenhiem (Krakatau, Scorch Trio), keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (Supersilent, Humcrush), drummer Morgan Agren (Mats/Morgan Band, Zappa's Universe) and bassist Trevor Dunn (John Zorn's Electric Masada, Trio Convulsant) as part of his art/film project, Box. Recorded in just two days with no overdubs or editing (digital or otherwise), what you hear is exactly what went down, and it's perhaps most surprising that, despite the reputation for extremes that Björkenhiem has in particular, Studio 1 may be considerably left of center, but it's surprisingly listenable.

That's not to suggest there aren't some powerful moments where the guitarist lets loose with some serious shredding. The sixteen-minute opener, "Untitled 9," begins atmospherically, with Björkenhiem's heavily processed guitar and Storløkken's assorted electronics creating a cinematically otherworldly landscape. But when Dunn and Agren enter with a propulsive rock beat, Björkenhiem begins to lean towards a still largely textural but more skronking approach, transcending mere virtuosity into a space where his guitar becomes nearly unrecognizable. Building to a relentless climax, the group comes to a grinding halt, reverting to near silence, with Björkenhiem switching to the bowed and fretted viola da gamba, combining jagged harmonics and unexpectedly melodic lines while the rest of the group begins to gradually ramp up until reaching another plateau of sonic and rhythmic intensity.

The closest antecedent for the music here is, indeed, Supersilent, whose 8 (Rune Grammfon) was a highlight of 2007. Where Box differs is that, while it's equally adept at the use of dynamics and sonic manipulation, it tends to avoid the moments of pure beauty to which Supersilent sometimes aspires. By having a conventional rhythm section, Box also leans more towards rhythmic devices, even when they're as staggered as they are on "Untitled 11," where Storløkken creates an electronically driven beat that sets the context for Dunn and Agren's support of Björkenhiem's swells and bends.

"Untitled 7" begins with Storløkken creating a sound not unlike an mbira (Zimbabwe finger piano), albeit one that's been dropped a few octaves. The track, like all of Studio 1's six untitled pieces, is episodic in nature, yet bears an uncanny logic and form that belies its in-the-moment creation.

Like much of the electronics-based improv coming out of Northwestern Europe, Box doesn't spend much time working within conventional concepts of form or development. But despite being an album that challenges preconceptions, Studio 1 is far too cohesive to be considered an aimless m élange of sound and pulse. There's clearly a greater collective mind at work here, making Box's first album one that will, hopefully, not be its last.

Visit Raoul Björkenhiem, Trevor Dunn and Morgan Agren on the web.


Track Listing: Untitled 9; Untitled 11; Untitled 7; Untitled 3; Untitled 13; Untitled 12.

Personnel: Raoul Björkenhiem: guitars, viola da gamba; Trevor Dunn: bass; Ståle Storløkken: keyboards, electronics; Morgan Agren: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Rune Grammofon


Shop

More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "El Toro" CD/LP/Track Review El Toro
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Goodbye Red Rose (2008/9)" CD/LP/Track Review Goodbye Red Rose (2008/9)
by John Eyles
Published: October 16, 2016
Read "Untitled" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Father Figure" CD/LP/Track Review Father Figure
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Kjølvatn" CD/LP/Track Review Kjølvatn
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 29, 2016
Read "The Evolution Suite" CD/LP/Track Review The Evolution Suite
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 4, 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!

Buy it!