Roadwork, Vol. 4: Intrepid Skronk

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The fourth volume in Motorpsycho's (very) intermittent Roadwork series (the first installment appeared in 1999) is subtitled Intrepid Skronk for a reason. While it contains music from various European tours since Kenneth Kapstad joined on drums in 2007, the music does indeed reach backwards and forwards to virtually all aspects of their career. While the band uses a disclaimer on the sleeve that the equipment employed to record their music live is often inferior to what's used in the studio, there are no problems with fidelity on possibly the finest volume in this series. The set kicks off with a sprawling, 21-minute, "The Bomb-Proof Rock & Roll Beyond," from Heavy Metal Fruit. This version is virtually suite-like in its construction, wildly different -- as are all these cuts -- from its studio incarnation. It starts the same, but the sheer free-falling improvisation makes this band sound more like Finland's Circle at their most ambitious. Quickly shifting dynamics, textures, tempos, and even song forms enter and disappear seemingly on cue. The original melody only returns in the last three minutes, but where it takes the listener in the meantime is somewhere far beyond it. This is followed by an 18-and-a-half minute version of "All Is Loneliness," from 1993's Demon Box. It begins in a cosmic sprawl and goes even further without losing any of its heaviness or focus. Kapstad's drumming is well suited to such flights of creative ambition, because he can push the other players very hard, helping to move a tune completely outside its architecture but still stay firmly in the pocket, providing a guiding light by which to return. While "Wishing Well" (Starmelt EP), "Landslide," (Phanerothyme), and "Kill Devil Hills" (Black Hole/ Blank Canvas), are more conventionally ordered rock songs, even they move off their original centers considerably, with "Landslide" coming off as a trippy, nine-minute, jazzed-out, slightly noodling ballad. Motorpsycho don't get completely unhinged again until closer "The Alchemyst" (off Little Lucid Moments), where the verse/chorus/verse frame holds just long enough for the guitars and Kapstad to derail the entire proceeding into instrumental overdrive. For longtime fans of Motorpsycho, Roadwork 4: Intrepid Skronk is an essential purchase; for those who are just getting acquainted, prepare to have your brain turned inside-out.

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