Luggumt – Scorch Trio (Rune Grammofon, 2004)

I was probably too lily-livered for this record when I first started investigating the Norwegian avant-jazz label Rune Grammofon in the mid-2000s. I’d seen this 2004 release riding high in a favourite blog’s albums of the year list, but I can’t honestly say that my taste was ready for something quite so free, noisy and chaotic at the time. Instead, I got into the label via its ‘softer’ sides: the minimalism-infused electronics of Alog, the rumbling drones of Deathprod, the cyborg jazz of Humcrush and the especially easy listening of In the Country.

But, after finally giving it a try some 13 years later(!), Luggumt has found itself on repeat. Aptly named, Scorch Trio is guitarist Raoul Björkenheim teamed with bass player Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, who both also play together in The Thing with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson. The trio first came together for a self-titled debut album in 2002 but reunited two years later for this six-track monster, which comes bookended with two lengthy epics each pushing 12 and a half minutes.

Opener ‘Kjøle Høle’ bursts straight out of the gate with a barrage of electric guitar shredding and super-frenetic drumming that’s like the perfect ungodly alliance of post-Hendrix rock and the free improv tradition. It barely lets up over its intense duration, with Björkenheim attacking his guitar in a glorious, clattering squall of sound.

Things cool down a touch for the following ‘Synnja Vegga’, which consists of plucked chords and feedback distortion set against a percussive sound that begins to sound like a pneumatic drill. But the blood starts to rise again with ‘Brennj Fynnj’, which gets going amid much brushing of cymbals and, in its melding of rock noodling and skittering jazz, sounds not dissimilar from something Tortoise might have recorded around the time of Standards (2001).

Even in the record’s calmer stretches, such as penultimate track, ‘Snækje Rojnd Nævinj’, there’s a sense of off-kilter tension. Here the warbling instability sets the stage for the final, long-form racket. This album-titled epic begins at an exhausted amble before the bass starts to mark a more urgent tempo and Björkenheim begins to improvise fierce scribbles of guitar like skywriting in fire.

This is a dense 48 minutes, and I’m not sure whether it’s the attempt to get a handle on Luggumt or simply the surrender to its maelstrom that keeps me going back to it.

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