An album applying some of the Eric Dolphy conception of out-jazz to the cinematic creepiness of David Lynch’s classic films can only be rightfully called Out To Lynch, right?
A quick survey of Finnish experimental electric guitarist Kalle Kalima’s career reveals that he’s a movie fan. One of the bands he heads up is an unconventional quartet called K-18 and their first release Some Kubricks Of Blood (2010) was a celebration of Stanley Kubrick’s works. Next week, the sophomore follow-up to that pays tribute to the mad, twisted genius of filmmaker David Lynch through whack jazz song, and that’s where the catchy title came from. Out To Lynch doesn’t recreate any of the music from the soundtracks of the Lynch flicks; these are all Kalima’s — or in the case of two pieces, the group’s — own musical impressions inspired by the movies.
To be fair, Lynch isn’t really a Dolphy-derived record, though some of Dolphy’s ideas of how to stretch outside the normal boundaries of what is typically called harmony and tempo are incorporated into Kalima’s art. Modern classical and rock play large roles in shaping this music, too, and the positioning together of these three disparate styles create much of the sparks and purposeful unpredictability that wouldn’t be possible by sticking with any one of these styles. In keeping with the cinematic theme, there’s a bigger emphasis on dramatic turns and a lesser emphasis on structured harmony.
As a guitarist, Kalima’s sharp-edged, angular attack shows some similarities to another Finn from a generation earlier, Raoul Björkenheim, moving between consonance and dissonance like as if no line between them ever existed, and fearless in extracting any kind of noise, any timbre that makes the biggest impact. When making cinematic music, it helps a lot of have those tendencies.
It also helps that he assembled this quartet with an assortment of instruments that combine to create an uncanny, spooky but sometimes beautiful sound that matches the character of those Lynch films. Joining Kalima are saxophonist Mikko Innanen, double bassist Teppo Hauta-aho and accordion player Veli Kujala. There’s something thrilling about an accordion clashing with a loud electric guitar. It’s the thrill I got when Nels Cline brought in Andrea Parkins for Cline’s New Monesatary and the two shredded together for “Compulsion,” and that battle gets played out between many stretches of ominous ambient moments.
The lack of a drummer seemed liberating to this group; they remained committed to sticking with metered time, but these musicians were also freed up to pay more attention to each other and a stronger empathy emerged from that. Overall, this uncommon combination of instruments emits a strange noise that evokes the repulsive/alluring paradox of Lynch’s films. It’s difficult to adequately describe the composite sound of this ensemble since there’s really no other group like it, but at times I’m reminded of Gato Libre because of the avant use of the accordion and other times, the Scorch Trio because of Kalima’s percussive, schizophrenic guitar that can alternately set the table for a song from behind, and lead the charge for attack.
“BOB” is a conversation among four like-minded avanteers who collectively form a blob of semi-tonal noise that somehow moves together on the same plane. After Kalima’s stinging lines, the group’s collective improvisation takes over, with each performer accompanying and soloing at the same time. Innanen’s urgent alto sax emerges as a lead voice, and he wrings an assortment of emotions out of it, from anxiety to despair. There are also all these micro-tones (they’re even more evident on “Agent Cooper”) appearing and disappearing, adding an extra dash of intrigue to the piece.
The cool, odd harmonics K-18 gets from this format is exploited even better on “Mulholland Drive,” where the band creates this carefully layered, electronic ebb and flow…only there’s really no use of electronics involved. The song races to a thrilling conclusion when the four race up to their highest note together, like a machine gone haywire.
Even when the state of mind for a composition is subdued, there’s always this sense of foreboding. “Laura Palmer” is such a ballad that splits the difference between melody and pure mood, and “Lula Pace Fortune” begins with a dreading feeling that culminates into Kujala’s accordion battling back against Kalima’s aggressive guitar, the ambient coda acting as the cold aftermath of a bloody scene.
The interplay between that accordion and guitar sets the tense tone for other pieces, too, like the tortured sound of the squeezebox in freak-out mode as Kalima plucks synth-like timbres from his axe. Another high point is the simultaneous improvs by Kalima and Hauta-aho on “The Mystery Man,” turning into a full group improv before Kalima peels away and lays in a nice groove underneath. “Frank Booth” begins with Innanen playing an anguished baritone that briefly turns into Lester Young sweetness, abruptly interrupted by an experimental, hard rock riff.
Mysterious, spooky, whimsical and jarring. If those are qualities you like about David Lynch films and have an open mind about art in general, then Kalle Kalima and K-18’s Out To Lynch is your musical companion to those flicks.
Out To Lynch will be released October 14 by TUM Records.
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feature photo by Maarit Kytöharju