Raoul Bjørkenheim, Bill Laswell, Morgan Ågren – Blixt

Apparently recorded after just one concert and a couple of days of studio rehearsal with very little by way of studio post-production, Blixt (which is Swedish for ‘Lightning’) may be among its creators’ most raw and urgent recordings, but it’s also as tight, slick and devastatingly effective as its name suggests.

In a radical update of the Tony Williams Emergency blueprint, the Blixt trio combines with explosive potency the talents of LA-born Finnish psych rock guitarist Raoul Bjørkenheim, NY producer/bassist Bill Laswell, and Norwegian drum prodigy Morgan Ågren.

In the spiky opening run of “Black Whole”, “Moon Tune” and “Tools”, the Nordic free-jazz fusion of Bjørkenheim’s Scorch Trio is married to the funk- and dub-inflected deep bass of post-Massacre Laswell power trios Soup and Episome (both of which featured Otomo Yoshihide on guitar).

But drummer Morgan Ågren of the Mats/Morgan Band is the real catalyst here. Known in Sweden for his long-term partnership with keyboard player Mats Öberg, his scattershot power and reigned-in freneticism marries the intelligent hardcore of Laswell’s Praxis buddy Brain (which suited Primus, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Tom Waits, remember) to the powerhouse jazz refinement of former Scorch Trio drummer Paal Nilssen-Love.

That three-hit opening salvo is capped by a muscular exercise in roiling riffola titled “Cinque Roulettes”, but the album then becomes much harder to second-guess, moving as it does through a variety of styles, textures, and approaches.

“Shifting Sands Closing Hour” has a unique flavour that draws on metal gamelan and marimba percussion colourings and African guitar licks, while the following “Ghost Strokes” is initially abstractedly sedate, then slips relaxedly from cool fusion into an oiled, propulsive swing.

At 11:17, “Invisible One” is by far the album’s longest track (its shortest being “Moon Tune” at 02:10). Beginning in classic Laswell dubstyle, the track develops as a widescreen powerjazz odyssey; an epic, yes, but one where all the bloat and bombast has been excised. The following “Drill Beats” is brutally honed, and as hard and stark as pig iron. The lowering, post-Sabs “Storm” is just as aptly titled.

“4-4-4-4-2-2-2-5-2” takes the album out on a high, with Laswell dropping saggy, loping bass drones beneath Ågren’s whiplash percussion and Bjørkenheim’s scalding fretwork.

If you’re either a long-term follower of Laswell who thinks he’s past his prime, or (like me) a big Scorch fan who wasn’t entirely convinced by Melaza, then you should definitely give Blixt a listen. It’s the freshest, hardest-hitting power-jazz trio recording I’ve heard in years.

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