It’s a beautiful thrill, listening to an improvisational ensemble who knows what they’re doing, like Humcrush and of-late-frequent collaborator Sidsel Endresen do on Ha!. Humcrush features Ståle Storløkken on the keyboards and Thomas Strønen on the drums, and the two of them know just how to play off of each other. For the first three of the nine unnamed tracks they have you going, sounding as though they are falling prey to the improv trap of pure chaos—though, admittedly, they manage multiple moods with their chaos, thanks much to the vocals-without-lyrics work of Endresen—but it’s in the fourth track where they offer the sort of tense rhythmic explosion rarely experienced in improvisational performance. While the intensity of the keyboards and vocals are certainly a piece of this, it’s really Strønen’s beatwork that sets the track alight. The ninth track is at least as impressive, as a series of drum rolls and barely restrained vocals eventually coalesces into a cut-time explosion that has as much in common with, say, The Chemical Brothers as it does improvisational jazz. With those two tracks as a framework for what this trio can do when they’re keeping a beat, all the rest of the time feels like a journey to those moments. It’s a strange, usually interesting, and sometimes even thrilling piece of work that manages to make improvisation sound like a meticulously calculated experience.
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