The Gilded Palace of Sin

From Latvian-born player Viktor Timofeev, now living in New York, we have Palace Of Peace and Reconciliation (LO BIT LANDSCAPES LBL013), a solo record which has a slightly chequered history. He intended it for release in 2016, but his plans were derailed when he lost his Brooklyn studio. The record may or may not have been released on netlabel Ofluxo in 2020, but it’s here today in LP and CD form from Lo Bit Landscapes.

Timofeev is also a gallery artist, and though I never saw his video works you can sense there’s a visual sensibility underpinning much of today’s record, which often conveys sensations of travelling along an underground psychedelic pipeline to another dimension. Even the cover art suggests the menu to a mind-sapping DVD that will erase your brain cells, or perhaps a multi-lingual computer game where the penalties for losing are severe. He himself intends to communicate something about “digital alienation”, and would be very happy if we received these abstract instrumental burst-a-thons as museum relics from a “lost” electronic era, existing perhaps in some imaginary past-future realms. He suggests this by treating each track with a certain amount of decay and distortion, such that distressed surfaces are served up to the listener’s ear rather than bit-precise, squeaky-clean digital emanations. He also manages to capture intriguing sensations of near-chaos, such as the barely-organised sprawl and layerings evident on ‘Tevek Fritoiov’, and the fear-of-falling horror evinced on ‘Portal of Zin 1’. For ‘Portal of Accord’, he pulls out as many stops as might exist on his huge digital organ, and turns in a 17:44 minute epic of troubling sounds, arranged in near-symphonic form.

Aided here by Alienboy, who might have provided the screamy vocals at the start, always a useful trope when one wishes to express the pain of a futuristic dystopia. However, Viktor Timofeev does indeed offer many new slants on this kind of grim sci-fi narrative, and there’s a lot of authority in the way he assembles and marshals his powerful elements with a certain steely calm. Timofeev has in the past acted as sideman (gtr, bass) for Nihiti, who also appears on this label. Those intrigued will want to investigate this album’s immediate predecessor GIVE_HEALTH999, from 2011. (05/08/2021)

Very entertaining jazz from Flukten, a Norwegian ad-hoc combo, on their Velkommen Håp (ODIN RECORDS ODINLP9576) CD…this foursome of sax, guitar, bass and drums came together from a number of other groups, such as Skadedyr, Wako, Hullyboo and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and seem to have produced this one album during lockdown conditions fuelled by a desire to simply make music.

To say their musical influences are eclectic and diverse would be an understatement – they proudly bring a large shopping bag of styles and genres into the studio, including (according to the press notes) soul, Norwegian folk, hip-hop, and Country & Western. I myself can hear traces of 1970s Ornette or James Blood Ulmer on a track like ‘Budeie Boogie’, though this may be because of Marius Hirth Klovning and his very fluid guitar style. Hanna Paulsberg of Rygge is no less articulate on her saxophone, and plays in at least seven other groups, including her own Hanna Paulsberg Concept. Pretty tasty on ‘Barneblues’ when her sax line melody is doubled by the guitar, both instruments working like a well-oiled machine as they perform this old be-bop trick and somehow manage to update it too. Elsewhere I suppose it’s the quartet’s penchant for hocketing rhythms and herky-jerky beats that allow them to nod in the direction of the hip-hop genre, and Poulsen and Hulbaekmo are seamlessly adept as a rhythm section.

For all these external influences, the music is still recognisable as “jazz”, which must count for something. I think this kind of warm and lively jazz has been flourishing in Norway for a good number of years now, and Flukten offer a particularly user-friendly strain of it, thankfully not quite as glib as some releases on the Hubro label. The cover photo is a slightly rude joke which doesn’t quite “travel”, but this is a spirited and enjoyable album. From 5th August 2021.