Ectoplasm and Adrenaline

Ken Hyder / Z’EV / Andy Knight
Ghost Time

As initial reactions go, the question “what is this scary music?” is certainly auspicious, offering assurance that I’m playing something interesting. The group goes by the name of ‘Ghost Time’, and is an ethereal, instrumental trio of overlapping interests, all peripheral to jazz. Most (in)famous of the three performers is Z’EV, known for his molten, multi-kulti-meets-industrial approach to percussion. In these four post-mortem ‘jazz’ pieces he is joined by composer and fellow percussionist, Scotland’s Ken Hyder, whose predilection for prog/jazz fusion puts him on first-name terms with the likes of Tim Hodgkinson, Phil Minton, Keith Tippett and Elton Dean. Finally – and most enigmatically – Andy Knight is, according to the group’s website, simply ‘an English trumpet player’. The group’s moniker offers ample indication of what to expect: ghostly, post-mortem ‘soundscapes’ steamrolled by sub-bass and streaked with spaghettified phantom yowls. The formula may not be rare, but the product permits little more than a passing acquaintance: depersonalising all participants and foregrounding none into the bargain.

The tracks are largely cymbal-led, shimmering with glassy, growling backdrops coloured by a faint pull of pocket trumpet. Though potentially generic to casual listeners, the riches of this dark ambience will be revealed to the patient. The press claim that there is ‘a feeling of something you felt before… A hint of music you might have caught on the wind, off the water, in your sleep, or in someone’s eyes’ is not inaccurate, though by the same token, specific influences such as Canntaireachd (‘a vocalisation of bagpipe playing’), Tuvan Khoomei singing and Tibetan ritual percussion playing will be evident only to ‘those who know’. Not until ‘Faint’ are we treated to any significant tonal variation, where a more menacing air of rolling snares and guttural sub-bass enshrouds the careful listener, while in ‘Glimpse’, a sharper strain of muted trumpeting pierces the atmosphere like it does the ‘Silencio’ scene in Mulholland Drive.

Generally, there’s little to differentiate one track from another, as all possess the same ingredients and ideas, leaving us with a subtle, longform exercise in theme and variation. Not that there’s anything wrong with this of course. The music can be easily enjoyed, especially if one assumes a horizontal position and surrenders to the near-darkness it articulates.


Terrie Ex / Paal Nilssen-Love

On the other side of the jazz divide we find – in this exclamatory effort, ‘Hurgu!’ – Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and guitarist Terrie Ex (of Dutch troublemakers, The Ex) in singularly confrontational and uncompromising mind-states, both in jazz-flag burning mode. Little need be said about proceedings other than the fact that they are a) loud and b) fast. However, lest the reader experience apprehension at the appearance of yet another jazz-rock wank-fest, I hasten to add that it is c) completely captivating from start to finish.

The recording rocks and rolls with an itch that begs for relief: like two lion cubs tumbling playfully in the savannah, Ex and Nilssen-Love tussle with dental intent. In ‘Harar’, Ex’s guitar is edged and muscular, withstanding every pummelling beat of Nilssen-Love’s relentless percussive rejoinders. The mood becomes more jagged in ‘St. George’ – Ex chipping off chunks of flaming scree, which Nilssen-Love volleys with thundering skin rolls and searing cymbal smashes, the two colliding like masochists in a moshpit. Initially of a more sinister species is ‘Bedele’, which begins with a bassy rumble and a rant of agitated strings, but soon enough becomes another high-pace terminator chase through a collapsing metal works. Not until ‘Meta’ does the blistering meter relent, slowing to an agonizing howl of abrasive growl and angular twang: atonement expressed with the most depraved definition of ‘grace’. This comedown comes across like one of DNA’s primal scream therapy sessions hijacked by an enervating lecture on entropy. Utter perfection.

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