Krokofant: Krokofant III

Although Krokofant's stylistic choices do not result in surprises for fans of progressive rock or jazz, the music is often exciting in its own right.


Krokofant III

Label: Rune Grammofon
US Release Date: 2017-02-17
UK Release Date: 2017-02-17

Krokofant III begins and ends with its best themes. At the beginning, "Tommy Synth" starts with a psychedelic flourish, shifts into a riff that locks the guitar and bass synth together for a couple of measures, and then into the song's signature melody that combines drums, guitar, and sax before the individual instruments peel off into controlled improvisation. And towards the end of the last song, "Wrong Turn", some jarring improvisation swirls chaotically and fades into a beat of silence, and guitar, sax, and drums instantly cohere around one dense swinging melody, and then another, and then it ends.

Both sequences are characteristic for Krokofant; all of it takes place within around two minutes, and all of it is powered by hard-hitting, virtuosic drumming. It utilizes a framework that resembles post-bop jazz and fills it with influences derived principally from progressive rock and jazz fusion. There are surprises, as well -- some lively klezmer moments, for example, in Mathisen's soprano sax, and a kinetic and athletic interlocking dynamic that recalls technical progressive metal in Skalstad and Hasslan's drums and guitar, respectively.

That being said, the prevailing influence on Krokofant is certainly King Crimson. Krokofant don't use silence, creeping tension, or disorienting bursts of disharmonic loudness for dramatic effect in the manner of King Crimson's signature songs. Nor are there in Krokofant those moments of emotional insight characteristic of, say, "Epitaph" and "The Night Watch". Instead, Krokofant have effectively excerpted the extended instrumental bridge in the middle of "21st Century Schizoid Man". The band dubbed this passage "Mirrors", and it still has the power to command attention almost 50 years later. It spans only a couple minutes and is a tightly wound series of stops and starts, with the four principle instruments ascending and descending in a manner that might feel like gratuitous virtuosity were it not also arranged to produce a swinging melody.

Much of Krokofant III could not unfairly be characterized as "Mirrors" writ large. Certainly, there are strong jazz elements throughout and the structure and saxophone-led melodies give the songs a post-bop feel. There is a wildness recalling John Coltrane's Sun Ship (1971), where the spectre of a ferocious energy threatens always to pull the songs apart into chaos. There is also a commitment to disciplined, melodic, and swinging moments that recalls the more traditional approach of McCoy Tyner's The Real McCoy (1967). Krokofant are not self-indulgent avant-gardists and they seem to take such moments seriously.

But band's essential quality recalls progressive rock music at its most austere. In other words, it is not the colorful and kaleidoscopic progressive rock of Yes, Camel, or Pink Floyd, but rather the exacting and sober progressive rock of Crimson, Watchtower, and Billy Cobham's Spectrum (1973). It cannot be said that this combination of styles and approaches converge here in a manner that generates real surprises for fans of progressive rock, jazz, or jazz fusion. But through a kind of brute force effect produced by the melodies and the musicianship, Krokofant III is often exciting in its own right.


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