Raoul Bj: Shadowglow (2003)
Shadowglow, the sixth release this year from Finland’s TUM Records , plays more like a series of sound experiments than a collection of songs, and following the creative process of guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and percussionist Lukas Ligeti makes for intriguing listening. In this duo setting, both musicians let their omnivorous musical minds and vast technique wander freely through various fusings of African, Korean and Indonesian music with free jazz, rock and Western avant-garde ideas. From these idioms they pull rhythmic patterns and harmonic structures that infuse their own personal musical languages with fresh, vibrant colors.
During their careers, both musicians have delved into a myriad of sound-worlds. Björkenheim has added his razor-like, feedback-tinged vocabulary to recordings by Edward Vesala, Bill Laswell and Nicky Skopelitis, as well as his own Scorch Trio and experiments with orchestral and chamber works. The Hungarian-born Ligeti has honed his compositional technique and polymetric explorations with Henry Kaiser, Wadada Leo Smith and Elliot Sharp. 1997’s Beta Foly shows him and a host of West African musicians mediating African drumming patterns with Western improvisation and electronics.
Many of the album’s brightest moments come from the African-inspired pieces. ”Rain Turns Red Gold” has Björkenheim on a Tri-sonic steel guitar chiming out cyclic patterns of metallic tones, born up by Ligeti’s prepared log drum and atmospheric percussion palette. ”Shed and Torn” starts with a disembodied melody, slightly wounded, bowed by Björkenheim on his custom-made electric viola de gamba. He slices through Ligeti’s shifting swirl of snare rolls, ringing cymbal and pitch bends. They glimpse down numerous paths until bursting forth in a many-headed groove, urged on by Björkenheim, now tapping out a palpitating push of rounded, throbbing bass tones.
On Shadowglow ’s twelve cuts, the duo uses musical experience as raw material to be shaped, reshaped, then reshaped again, like these two players are wandering through some African or Oriental market searching for exotic fabrics from which they fashion a patchwork quilt. And like a quilt, some combinations excite while others stick out as too calculated. ”Nigerian Mohawk” and ”Olivezone” come across as the latter, longer pieces that sound like failed experiments as they cycle through tempo changes and rhythmic variations rather mechanically. ”Fountain Jewel,” however, comes alive with Björkenheim’s bright, cascading guitar tones and Ligeti’s bubbling, bouncing rhythms. Inspired by, but not confined to, the light, infectious throb of West African pop music and the fleet fingers of Malagasy guitar master D’Gary, the duo scales back the pulse and builds a dripping, hypnotic wall of sound.
Helping the listener glimpse their creative process are the detailed liner notes about the sessions and tunes that help the listeners glimpse the creative process. Shadowglow is definitely experimental, and Ligeti and Björkenheim are the tone researchers, combining elements with assured technique, questing for new knowledge, and most importantly sharing the results for all to benefit from.
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Track Listing: 1.Into Fall 2.Ghostedwall 3.Niagra Mohawk 4.Rain Turns Red Gold 5.Cogwheels of Speed 6.Shed and Torn 7.In the Flesh 8.Duoyell 9.Olivezone 10.Viscousphere 11.Fountain Jewel 12.Changgo Valse
Personnel: Raoul Bj