Bushman's Revenge: You Lost Me at Hello (2009)
Norway's Rune Grammofon label has, since its inception over a decade ago, gradually broadened its horizon, though the majority of its music remains highly experimental and unequivocally eclectic, often exploring the nexus of musical styles that might seem, on the surface, to be incongruous. Certainly Bushman's Revenge, led by guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, brings together elements of free jazz and heavy metal, recalling label-mates Scorch Trio and Shining (the latter of whom is a member). With a fervent combination of rock-centricity and reckless abandon, Bushman's Revenge suggests how Jimi Hendrix might have sounded had he focused more on expanding the open-ended playing of "Third Stone from the Sun," from Are You Experienced (MCA, 1967), or how Albert Ayler would have turned out, had he chosen the guitar over the saxophone.
They don't call them "power trios" for nothing, and Bushman's Revenge certainly qualifies for that moniker. Bassist Rune Nergaard and drummer Gard Nilssen are capable of creating an unfettered turbulence that boils underneath Hermansen's outrageously overdriven and unconstrained playing on the heavily improvised "No Sleep 'Till Hammerfest." Hermansen trades between extreme bends, feedback, edgy phrasing and blues-based riffs that make the link with Hendrix complete. While there's plenty of open-ended blowing on "No Sleep," there is a theme, but it's delivered with such noise-laden freedom that it transcends mere blues-based jamming into the realm of electrified free jazz.
Even when the trio aims for more melodic and gentle territory, as it does on "Champagne for My Real Friends," it doesn't take long for Hermansen to kick in the heavy distortion, wah wah pedal and other effects to create a kind of psychedelic, post-Hendrixian vibe, bolstered by an unexpected vocal buried deep in the mix to add to the tune's anthemic feel.
"Count the Holes in Your Head" is centered around a bluesy phrase but, by repeating it over a three-bar, three-beat foundation, the trio skews it from the norm. The same applies to the irregularly metered "Bølehøgda Rock City," which approaches head-banging metal with both an idiosyncratic rhythmic concept and, ultimately, a liberated middle section where, with Hermansen's densely overdriven chords, it's left to Nilssen to create some kind of definition amongst the chaos.
The odd man out here is "Hell Is for Hello," the only tune not written by Hermansen alonea two-minute collaboration between the guitarist and Nergaard that's an ambient miniature, segueing into "King of Hello," the album's longest track. While there's plenty to differentiate Hermansen from American guitarist Nels Cline, here his aggressive stance and use of unusual techniques to create an intriguingly post-modern approach to free improvisation bears at least some comparison.
Bushman's Revenge certainly shares a not-for-the-faint-of-heart approach with Cline, Shining and Scorch Trio. While occasionally demonstrating attention to dynamics, You Lost Me At Hello is primarily a catharsis of combative music that will appeal to those who aren't afraid of music that assaults, rather than soothes, the senses.
Track Listing: Count the Holes in Your Head; Bølehøgda Rock City; Ginsberg; Hell Is for Hello; King of Hello; Ghostwriters in the Sky; No Sleep 'Till Hammerfest; Champagne for My Real Friends.
Personnel: Even Helte Hermansen: guitar; Rune Nergaard: bass; Gard Nilssen: drums, percussion.