En Form For Blå

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Æthenor's early-2011 album, its fourth to this point, draws on shows done the previous year in Oslo, and it's no surprise that there's much about the group now that suggests the avant-garde jazz and noise work on the Norwegian Rune Grammofon label, above and beyond the immediate connections to the country via Ulver's Kristoffer Rygg. The combination of Rygg and his new bandmate Daniel O'Sullivan, as well as Steve Noble and Stephen O'Malley, has become even more of a continuum in recent years as players appear on each other's projects or live, but, rightly, En Form for Blå feels of its own space and location rather than simply an addendum. "Jocasta," the first of two lengthy pieces that start the album, emerges with slow emptiness before moving into more jamming rumbles; if it's representative of the players' various backgrounds, halfway between black metal hush and atmosphere and jazz-derived exploration, it's done with skill and a sense of how to make it a performance. The buildup to a sudden stop at six minutes in before O'Sullivan's bassline hits a groove and Noble's drumming becomes a clatter is wonderful, almost melodramatic, while the further shift into quick, recurrent bursts of sound is a sudden splash of beauty. "One Number," in contrast, is more of a steady progression from the start, a gentle recurrent keyboard melody surrounded by calm if dark shaded tones and distant drum rumbles, a floating forward in an audio wasteland. The one-room-over clutter and rampage at four and a half minutes in adds a distanced energy. The remaining shorter numbers cover less ground by default but still manage a variety within the shadowy boundaries set, whether it is the echoed percussion at the end of "Laudanum Tusk" or the bubbling keyboard rhythm loop at the heart of "Vivarium."

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