Ultralyd Conditions For A Piece Of Music Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Bleak yet oddly beautiful, crammed with ideas yet too questing to be pinned down.

Louis Pattison 2007

Norway's Ultralyd were apparently formed as a means of bridging the avant-garde's generation gap. An experimental jazz ensemble that brought together drummer Morten J. Olsen and guitarist Anders Hana with Frode Gjerstad, a legendary Norwegian saxophonist known for his skills in free improvisation. Ultralyd's collective predilection for schlepping their way around Europe's rock fleapits rather than playing respectable concert halls apparently got to the veteran saxophonist, however, so for Conditions For A Piece Of Music we find him replaced by a relative newcomer, Kjetil Møster, with Kjetil D.Brandsdal joining on bass.

What could be a disappointment is, it's pleasing to report, often quite excellent: outer-limits rock informed by jazz and improvisation, yet never in thrall to its dogma. The opening "Saprochord" sees Olsen nail a steady, consistent rock rhythm occasionally adorned with chimes, Hana and Møster using the backbeat as a mere canvas to let off gusts of feedback, fiery shrieks and ghostly drone. This, however, is just a starting point. "Low Waist" strikes up a sort of interstellar funk groove, guitar and drums jamming out crunchy, distorted patters as the saxophone keens, pained, in the background. "Figurae" swings, but the relatively jaunty sax-drum interplay is periodically interrupted by magisterial crunches of guitar. And present too are myriad moments like "Debitage" where the band seem just as eager to explore ambience, testing out the multitudinous tones of their instruments in a flurry of parps, scrapes, rattles and shivers.

Bleak yet oddly beautiful, crammed with ideas yet too questing to be pinned down, the overall effect recalls as much the spindly dread of Slint’s Spiderland as it does, say, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler or Sun Ra. Mostly, however, you feel Conditions For A Piece Of Music is an attempt to render all existing classification attempts inadequate - and in this, it succeeds most admirably.

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