Conditions for a Piece of Music

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This is Ultralyd's third album, their first for leading indie Scandinavian label Rune Grammofon, and most importantly their first without saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, founding member and the original group's household name. The jazz veteran has been replaced by a prized youngster, Kjetil Møster, and Conditions for a Piece of Music, the new lineup's first recording, changes everything. Ultralyd did not quite go for a clean slate, since one clearly recognizes the screeching guitars and the heavy rhythm section, but the band has blossomed into something else. First of all, the unit is not about 100 percent free improvisation anymore. In fact, most of Conditions for a Piece of Music seems to be composed or at least the result of improvisation canvases. Second of all, the group has grown a funk rock bone, with heavy metal articulations. The result is a raunchy form of experimental instrumental free rock, with the emphasis on rock, despite regular forays into other territories, including even (gasp!) jazz and (re-gasp!) contemporary music -- especially in the title track, a neat exercise in pacing and silence, judiciously placed midway through the album. Highlights include the opening "Saprochord," the steamy but way too short "Comphonie III," and the metal skronk of "Figurae," but the album does not suffer from weaker tracks. Its concision (50 minutes, 12 tracks) provides an eventful and galvanizing listen. Fans of Noxagt (Kjetil Brandsdal's best-known other project) or Raoul Björkenheim's Scorch Trio will definitely feel at home here.

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