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Krokofant - Krokofant [Rune Grammofon - 2014]

Rune Grammofon is a good label to peruse, if your ears like the noisier end of jazz and improv and “Krokofant” is another gem in that territory. The line-up is a “simple” guitar/drums/sax trio, fleshed out with some judiciously used guitar loops and full of fire. “Loops” and “fire” perhaps sum up the most powerful parts of the album, with the trio locking in on twisting, angular riffs and pummelling them like a muscular, noisy, stripped-down King Crimson. These monolithic passages are interspersed with more exploratory, soundy sections, allowing the listener (and Krokofant, I imagine) time to catch their breath before the next onslaught. So, some kind of prog-jazz-improv is the order of the day; delivered without pretension or preciousness.

The first track, “polyfant”, states Krokofant’s intentions from the off. It begins with a slurring guitar loop, before launching into a blistering unison section; turning from a powerful, lurching riff into a visceral funk and back again. Its really breath-taking stuff and the rest of the track sees the guitar and drums pound the main riff into the ground, whilst Jorgen Mathisen’s sax dances and bellows across it. This modus operandi of “lock and pound” is continued at the start of “supermann”, which spins out a spidery riff for a couple of minutes; before collapsing into a sax/drums duet. This is one of several duo sections, where the drummer (Axel Skalstad) joins the sax or Tom Hasslan’s guitar in stretching out for a while. The next such section comes in the middle of “bodega”, where the drums and guitar rock out - following a introductory passage where snake-like sax follows a long guitar line. I said “rock out” in the previous sentence, because the drums and guitar sound like Led Zeppelin on speed. Hasslan even uses an unpleasant, processed “jazz” guitar sound and gets away with it… (There’s also a small section where pick scrape sounds can be heard against the shredding, but its unclear whether these are overdubs or triggered sounds…) Away from all the bluster and fire, the last piece, “castaway” shows a more measured, quiet tone from Krokofant. After a subdued, yet still angular, start, the trio work a beautiful drone; created out of small textural sounds from all parties. The guitar dominates the middle ground, with drones and a melodic loop; whilst the drums rattle underneath and the sax scrapes over the top. Its a very effective change in tone to the rest of the album and again, displays Hasslan’s ability to “get away” with sometimes questionable guitar tones (to my delicate ears). “castaway” builds to a proggy, anthemic climax and ends with a ringing guitar.
 
This is a really great album. It arguably falls into a limbo, where it could be too prog/rock for improv ears and too jazz/improv for rock/prog ears; but, for me, thats its beauty. The whole thing is very well paced, with fiery assaults making way for more exploratory passages and vice versa; as well as being delivered in easily digestible chunks. If I had one strong criticism, it would be that the drums don’t sound “right” - I can’t elaborate on that too much, but they sound a little buried and lacking in treble frequencies. I’d normally complain about some of the more unpleasant processed guitar tones, too; but its to Hasslan’s credit that the effects always stop short of overwhelming the general sound. Basically, this is a thunderous, fun album; to be well received by fans of angular prog and skronk - or indeed, people who’ve dreamt of a secret, lost Morphine tribute album to King Crimson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra .

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Martin P
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