Rune Grammofon (Norway)
I'm OK with Scandinavian dark metal, but these guys brutally attacked the jazz scene and painted it with walrus blood. Combining the howling pain of a longish winter and the free form improvisational sound of 1950's cool, this trio of umlauted musicians makes a sound that's not an easy listen, but if you stick with it there's a structure and connectedness that intrigues, if not entertains. The original drummer Paal Nilssen-Love slipped out for other projects, leaving Raoul Björkenheim and Ingebrigt Flaten to recruit Chicago-based Frank Rosaly to fill in. Besides the jazz influence, you'll hear whispers of early Zappa, particularly on the busy, scritchy "Fajao." After the clashing opener "Relajo," the quiet and quirky "Orita" might shock you if these guys hadn't skillfully manipulated your expectations track by track. By the time title track "Melaza" appears, you are perfectly fine as it applies an aggressive guitar with Sesame Street grade fuzz to re-center you ears on what most normal folks consider rock and roll. We wrap up with the calming cello centered replica of Middle Eastern desert music "Iesnu!" It's accented with just a smidge of feedback and a fillip of smoked herring, and while these titles are totally foreign, Scorch Trio fakes you into a den of mirrors, each reflecting a unique soundscape. Ah, those crafty Northerners!