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Raoul Bjorkenheim, Bill Laswell, and Morgan Agren

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RAOUL BJORKENHEIM/BILL LASWELL/MOREGAN AGREN Blixt (CD on Cuneiform Records)

This release from 2013 features 48 minutes of powerhouse rock music.

Bjorkemheim plays guitar. Laswell (from Material) plays bass. Agren (from the Mats/Morgan Band) plays drums and percussion.

This power trio produces teeth-gritting powerhouse rock of a progressive nature.

The guitar snarls and wails with blazing pyrotechnic fury, belting out riffs capable of searing the paint from the wall of a battleship. There's a guttural growl to the chords that is particularly mind-numbing.

The bass rumbles like some prehistoric monster buried deep beneath the earth, its outcries so dense and powerful as to shake the ground underfoot and dislodge masonry from sturdy edifices. The instrument thumps with a fervor that will churn the stomach of the unwarned listener. Not content to relegate itself to just supporting riffs, the bass pursues a variety of complex almost lead threads that pound through the already tight mix and rattle your bones.

The percussion is dazzling, furious and relentless. The beats are intricate and harsh and nimble. The rhythms seethe with passionate vitality, determined to cram a maximum beats into the average moment.

These tunes are forceful compositions designed to exhaust the conventional audience—hell, the songs are liable to even leave a fanatical thrasher sweaty and breathless. And yet there's a certain stately quality to the music, a grandeur forged in molten creativity and crafted with explosive intent. And—a pleasant surprise—the tuneage is quite catchy too.

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RAOUL BJORKENHEIM eCsTaSy (CD on Cuneiform Records)

This release from 2014 features 46 minutes of modern jazz music.

Bjorkenheim is a guitar virtuoso. He is joined on this album by: Pauli Lyytinen (on saxophone), Jori Huhtala (on bass), and Markku Ounaskari (on drums).

The saxophone is way up front, blaring out mournful riffs of delightful allure. These riffs glow with power and excitation, the notes cascading forth like friendly bees.

The bass provides a sultry undercurrent that rumbles with puissant verve, yet does so with such a sneakiness that its utterances are often hidden in the mix while contributing an essential bottom. As in any jazz album, though, the instrument is afforded its opportunity for solos—in which it shines with a molten cool. There's even an occasion when the bass gets to pretend to be a cello.

The drums deliver a smooth cafe jazz presence with their rolling rhythms. While the tempos are in constant motion, they seem removed, slightly immersed in the mix and so not as forceful.

Surprisingly, the guitar's blinding voice does not dominate the music, but slithers around deep in the mix. This hardly diminishes its effect. The guitar notes are crisp and particularly molten. They issue forth with a charming buzz, often in a fashion in which the notes blur into each other, producing a very liquid stream of dazzle.

These compositions are superb jazz pieces. While delivered with a slick modern temperament, they retain an old school jazz flair that is quite tasty. Despite the frequent solos, the instruments generally mesh into a gestalt that is lovely and deeply emotional. Ah, and the created mood is one of relaxed energization, hip but in a friendly manner, not all that cerebral at all. Accessible tuneage is the keynote here.

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