Exposé Online banner

Raoul Björkenheim — Ecstasy
(Cuneiform Rune 373, 2014, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2014-05-18

Ecstasy Cover artEcstasy finds Raoul Björkenheim in a quartet setting with drums, upright bass, and saxophone along with his guitar. The band has been playing together since 2010, and they've forged bonds of highly intuitive communication, blurring the lines between composition and improvisation. All four are inventive players, capable of dazzling the listener, more with creativity than technical prowess. Björkenheim's playing has the free-wheeling intensity of Sonny Sharrock, and his tones remind me of Terje Rypdal at times, but he's his own man, and his approach to what the electric guitar should do in this otherwise acoustic context knows no boundaries, sometimes using fairly clean tones, sometimes distorted. This is a very different sound from when I last heard him (on Blixt). Saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen plays tenor and soprano (I think — the credits aren't specific), and manages to keep the soprano from sounding wimpy and overly pretty like it so often does. His breath and grit form a lot of the appeal to the recording. After the two energetic pieces that start the CD, we get "Deeper," with cavernous arco bass from Jori Huhtala, and moody long tones on the other instruments; drummer Markku Ounaskari provides sputtering accompaniment. Such free pieces fit well with the composed tracks, which are interpreted very loosely, usually consisting almost exclusively of a melody stated on the sax with the guitar either doubling it or providing commentary. Aside from the melody, there may be a few rhythmic motifs that bring the band together, serving as a springboard for improvisation, that that's it — no fancy polyphony or complex arrangements. On "Through the Looking Glass," things get a bit more freaky, with Björkenheim indulging in some extensive knob-twiddling. But every track has great moments to offer, and Ecstasy is a kick from start to finish. Put it together with Dylan Ryan's Sand and you've got hope for the future of jazz.

Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases

Related artist(s): Raoul Björkenheim

Latest news

2018-01-18
Christian Burchard RIP – Multi-instrumentalist Christian Burchard, who founded the seminal band Embryo in 1969, has died at the age of 71. His January 17 passing was announced on the band's Facebook page. » Read more

2018-01-05
Ray Thomas RIP – On Thursday, 4 January 2017, the world lost Ray Thomas, founding member of the Moody Blues. Thomas sang and played flute, and was responsible for writing a number of the band's most memorable songs. He was 76. » Read more

2017-12-22
Roswell Rudd RIP – Jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd, one of the distinctive players of his instrument in many strains of music, has died at the age of 82. With a career stretching back to the early 60s and over a hundred recordings featuring his playing, he leaves behind a substantial legacy. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. » Read more

2017-11-16
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more

2017-11-02
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Asturias - Cryptogam Illusion – The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and composer Yoh Ohyama, Asturias has a sound that could be called an instrumental symphonic fusion (in the vein of Kenso, Happy the Man, Pekka Pohjola or...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues