Raoul Björkenheim / eCsTaSy – Doors Of Perception (2017)

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feature photo: Remi Angeli, courtesy of Cuneiform Records.

Now three albums in with the recent unleashing of Doors Of Perception (Cuneiform Records), guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and his eCsTaSy quartet take their unique collision of experimental rock and free-form jazz to the next level. Paradoxically relying even more on spontaneity — seven of these ten tracks were mostly composed on the spot by the band — and shorter running times, Björkenheim+eCsTaSy make their music even more immediate and vivid.

Implying that prior eCsTaSy records are contemplated affairs would seen preposterous to anyone who’ve heard them: the self-titled debut and the Out Of The Blues follow-up have been plenty unbounded and capricious. But that’s all relative, and Björkenheim saw an opportunity to go further; Doors Of Perception does. This combo goes through more musical gymnastics than before but succeeds in sticking the landing every time.

Björkenheim piles on feedback on “Ides Of March,” leaving bassist Jori Huhtala to handle the harmony tasks while Markku Ounaskari runs free on his drum set. Those caustic guitar tones continue for “Answer It!”, but this time Björkenheim devises an unfettered pattern of notes, and Pauli Lyytinen briefly backed by only Huhtala’s bass sprawl, does the same on saxophone.

The “Buzz” comes from Huhtala’s unusual, high register ostinato that forms the foundation for the song. Lyytinen layers on his harmonic counterpart by doubling himself, and Björkenheim entry heralds a frenzied phase, which — in keeping with the album’s mission — doesn’t last long. “Surf Bird” is a palette-cleansing moment of isolation, keyed by Lyytinen’s wood flute and a shimmering, barren guitar more conspicuous more by the notes not played. Ounaskari’s cymbal/snare work puts a jazz undercurrent beneath “Elemental,” and with Björkenheim’s swinging, searching chords, this track could feel right at home on John McLaughlin’s Extrapolation.

The belligerent title “Talkin’ To Me?” is matched by the music behind it: the imposing bass saxophone of Lyytinen sets hard rock vamps over an odd time signature, and Björkenheim lets out his inner Tony Iommi. And then without warning, a wonderful little jazz free-for-all breaks out. Ounaskari’s tribal beat with Huhtala’s groove-leaden bass lines establishes the mood for “Doors Of Perception,” as Björkenheim steps aside and lets Lyytinen dominate this performance.

You could probably jitterbug to “Jitterfug,” and Björkenheim funky interplay with Lyytinen makes this danceable tune ever more fun. “Sunflower” is celestial melody riding on a wandering pulse provided by the rhythm section, and “Ecstasy Dance” ends the program on a resilient frame of mind, an irresistible swing courtesy of Ounaskari and Huhtala, and Lyytinen (on soprano sax) trading hot licks with Björkenheim.

With eCsTaSy now six years running, Raoul Björkenheim decided to fully harness the trust built up with eCsTaSy over that time and Doors Of Perception is the triumphant result.

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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