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Reflections in Cosmo – Reflections in Cosmo – RareNoise

Norwegian rock-jazz that is forceful, imposing and heavy.

Reflections in Cosmo – Reflections in Cosmo [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR073, 40:41 [1/20/17] ****:

(Kjetil Møster – baritone, tenor and soprano saxophone; Hans Magnus Ryan – guitar; Ståle Storløkken – keyboards; Thomas Strønen – drums)

The Norwegian quartet Reflections in Cosmo is ready-to-hear for those who prefer a rock-riotous tone to their improvisation and fusion jazz. This is heavy electric guitar; thrashing drums; lashed keyboards; and saxophone from Kjetil Møster (baritone, tenor and soprano sax), guitarist Hans Magnus Ryan (co-founder of the long-running progressive/psychedelic rock band Motorpsycho), keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (who has worked with Terje Rypdal and on stage with Motorpsycho) and drummer Thomas Strønen (credits include Bobo Stenson, Tomasz Stanko and others). These four allied musicians produce a turbulent consensus on the foursome’s self-titled debut on the RareNoise label. Reflections in Cosmo is available in CD, vinyl and multiple digital formats. This review refers to the CD version.

The group came about when Strønen and Storløkken (who both lead experimental jazz combo Humcrush) wanted to expand their musical options and enlisted Møster and Ryan (who had recently joined Møster’s group). Those who frequently listen to RareNoise releases probably know Møster from his inclusion in a 2014 project with Hungarian power trio Jü. While Reflections in Cosmo is an ensemble which has its own sound, the quartet often recalls the unruly passion of free jazzers Last Exit (Bill Laswell, Peter Brötzmann, Sonny Sharrock and Ronald Shannon Jackson). That’s because the Norwegians thrust aside jazz expectations and aren’t afraid of putting heavy rock weight into their improvised material. Reflections in Cosmo establish an unconstrained and kinetic command on opener “Cosmosis” (at 4:16, the CDs shortest cut) where Møster’s baritone sax, Storløkken’s keyboards and Ryan’s lacerating guitar combine into attack mode. Strønen maintains a groove but otherwise is all over his drums. Møster switches to soprano sax for the weaving, seven-minute “Ironhorse,” which commences with an atmospheric intro and then evolves into a motive arrangement which melds a repeating keyboard riff and drum groove that supplies “Ironhorse” with an attention-grabbing characteristic. Møster and Storløkken contribute melodic textures which lighten but don’t soften the tune’s potency. Eventually, Ryan lets loose on guitar, echoing his accelerated soloing on Motorpsycho records. Ryan also is comprehensively featured during the monstrous, six-minute “Fuzzstew,” where Ryan’s buzzing guitar consolidates with Møster’s wailing and deep-toned baritone sax for a prominent uproar.

On the other hand, “Balklava” has larger electronica elements due to Storløkken’s keyboards, which are reminiscent of his involvement in Humcrush. His Rhodes piano suggests a warped kind of ‘70s fusion. The seven-minute, motile “Perpetuum Immobile” initially gives the impression of something arising from some deep place such as the ether or the ocean depths, but then develops into a fiery progression replete with serrated instrumentation, unusual rhythmic components and an unbalanced groove supported by Møster’s scratchy baritone sax and Storløkken’s amped-up Hammond organ. The quartet close with the title track. “Reflections in Cosmo” continues the band’s favored fervor and howling tension which runs through the other cuts. There is turmoil via Møster’s rumbling tenor sax phrasings as well as a polyrhythmic accord; and there is an undeniable resolve and occasionally even a straightforward rock-based pulse. In the end, Reflections in Cosmo conclude their album the same way they start it, with a bracing blast centered on a rock-jazz (rather than a jazz-rock) foundation.

TrackList: Cosmosis; Ironhorse; Cosmic Hymn; Balklava; Perpetuum Immobile; Fuzzstew; Reflections in Cosmo

—Doug Simpson

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