Raoul Björkenheim / eCsTaSy – Out of the Blue (2015)

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feature photo: Remi Angeli, courtesy of Cuneiform Records.

Since forming in 2010, Raoul Björkenheim’s eCsTaSy quartet has been testing the limits of what’s possible when experimental rock and free-form jazz are put into a supercollider. By the time they issued their first album at the beginning of 2014, this band showed cohesion and telepathy rare in a band where volatility reigns supreme.

The lineup of Björkenheim on electric guitar along with saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen, acoustic bassist Jori Huhtala and drummer Markku Ounaskari remain, and Out of the Blue — also from Cuneiform Records — just picks up where they left off. Since an anything-goes attitude was the mantra from the start, using the same process on their second LP employed on their first guarantees a different product.

It gets wonderfully unstable from the start: “Head & Tales” is one of those ‘flow’ tunes where all four are ruminating but doing so on the same plane. Lyytinen eventually takes the baton from Björkenheim, an action that coincides with fury seeping into the proceedings, thanks to Ounaskari’s increasingly ferocious rumblings. Finally, Björkenheim and Lyytinen converge on a thematic figure at the ending resolution.

Since anything does indeed go with them, there’s also room for a 60s rock styled number with a 3/4 backbeat (“Quintrille”). Björkenheim teams with Lyytinen on soprano sax on this happy, playful melody. And barren textures are just as a part of eCsTaSy as the dense ones: “A Fly In The House Of Love” paints a desolate soundscape, creating a mysticism based heavily on timbres as Lyytinen moans away on a zyrna and Huhtala’s low, bowed bass resembles a baritone sax.

For the funky piece “Uptown,” Björkenheim releases caustic shards of blues-based guitar that transport right back to his work with the Scorch Trio. After some sinewy soloing on tenor sax by Lyytinen, the two converge at the end for the brief head. More grooves from the nether world come in the way of “OLJ”, an imposing jungle rhythm mated with death metal declarations from Björkenheim and Lyytinen’s bass saxophone; eCsTaSy improvises from this dangerous motif and proceeds to combine jazz with scary.

That’s immediately followed by the chirpy theme of “Roller Coaster” an apt title, as the band careens from the unstable to the explosive. Huhtala’s bass solo sets off a series of tense performances by him, Lyytinen on soprano sax and Björkenheim. African folk music is the inspiration for “Zebra Dreams,” with Björkenheim and Huhtala playing their instruments to approximate an mbira as Lyytinen makes anguished saxophone cries in the dark.

Visceral, vivid and uncompromising, Out of the Blue picks up where eCsTaSy left off. Raoul Björkenheim and his eCsTaSy band continue to conjure up a new set of fresh ideas for each track, and leverage an ample supply of intuition and musicianship to make it work right.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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