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Raoul Björkenheim eCsTaSy: Out of the Blue

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Raoul Björkenheim eCsTaSy
Photograph by Stefan Bremer

Raoul Björkenheim ‘s guitar-playing always seems informed by a composer’s instincts and sensibilities, attributes immediately discernable in his new recording Out of the Blue, which combines a sense of old-fashion wonder with an aggressive modernism in every composition played here.

Raoul Björkenheim 2 Out of the BlueOut of this richly atmospheric performance of the eight tracks certain pieces emerge as almost cinematically graphic. One easily pictures angry skies, swirling eddies of wispy clouds, the voices of ordinary folk and the other-worldly, voices of madness and joy all in the space of nearly fifty minutes in which this music unfolds. The raw emotion of Heads and Tales and the apprehension verging on fear of a crazy fly buzzing around in the House of Love… all of this is immediate and powerful. Within the fifty minutes or so of music a psychological drama of immense import unfolds on what seems like an epic scale. The emotional nakedness and unnerving attention to detail recall the seminal recordings of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The same probing, questing intelligence is brought to bear on the more conventionally virtuoso music of Björkenheim. To music that all too often leaves one rudderless and gasping for air in wave after wave of opulently ambivalent harmony, Björkenheim and eCsTaSy bring orientation and direction without sacrificing sensuality or mystical aura. Björkenheim especially accomplishes this through an almost uncanny variety of touch, tone production and judicious glissandos and bending of notes. The result is a recording that is audaciously original, yet recalls the contemporaneous keening of voices in Northern Europe. The irrepressible nervous energy animating the fast sections becomes, in the finale of the recording, both the means and the end.

In lesser hands Björkenheim’s obsessive repetition of massive chords can seem insensate guitar abuse. Through shaping and dynamic gradation, Björkenheim restores these characteristic figurations to their original shimmering vibrando effect producing sound that is at once musical and thrilling, Shape and directions are the operatives in Out of the Blue, creating an impact unlike any other recording I know.

For me, discs warranting the highest praise are those that persuasively introduce new musi, that chart new interpretative territory for a work or that demonstrate something fresh and heretofore unrecognised in music long familiar. These are recordings that contribute significantly to common understanding and appreciation. Björkenheim’s and eCsTaSy’s contribution in this release could scarcely be more generous.

Track List: Heads & Tales; Quintrille; A Fly in the House of Love; Uptown; You Never Know; OLJ; Roller Coaster; Zebra Dreams.

Personnel: Raoul Björkenheim: electric guitar; Pauli Lyytinen: bass, tenor and soprano saxophones, mey; Jori Huhtala: double bass; Markku Ounaskari: drums.

Label: Cuneiform Records
Release date: December 2015
Website: raoulbjorkenheimecstacy.net
Running time: 41:28
Buy music on: amazon

Raoul Björkenheim

From the beginning of the millennium, Raoul Björkenheim has been improvising new music with many of the finest American and European musicians on the scene: Scorch Trio with Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, a trio with Hamid Drake and William Parker, another trio with Bill Laswell and Morgan Ågren, and duos with Lukas Ligeti, to name a few. Having lived in New York from 2001, where he soaked up many new approaches to music, he returned to Finland in 2008. Read more…

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