Norwegian jazz-rock outfit Red Kite specialize in building the hypnotic, fuzz-laden music championed in the early days of jazz fusion. Guitarist Even Helte Hermansen, bassist Trond Frønes, keyboardist Bernt André Moen, and drummer Torstein Lofthus fuse even parts heavy propulsion and spaced-out atmospheres, an aural fusion best experienced on headphones. The four originals and one cover that comprises their self-titled debut reveal a band early in existence but locked into a communal mission of progressive jams and bold soundscapes.
The album opens with a cover of Alice Coltrane’s seminal “Ptah, The El Daoud”, an 11-plus-minute affair that charges out of the gate with an explosive psychedelic urgency. The track is a homage to the ambitious instrumental records of the 1970s, a loving take on extended jams that value color and character over self-indulgent solos. With its effusive energy and chant-like percussive pulse, the song feels like a chaotic call to prayer. After a spaced-out intro Frønes and Lofthus keep the beat rock-solid while guitar and keyboard solos craft melodies that invoke angels and demons in equal amount. Coltrane’s classic was one of the first tunes the band jammed on, something all too evident in their sonic mastery of time and space.
The absurd title of “13 Enemas for Good Luck” belies its mountain-sized riffs and hammering beats. After two minutes of a guitar-driven atmosphere as thick as a fog, the band clicks in with an off-kilter stoner rock riff that gives direction to the tune’s warm and fuzzed-out vibe. The madness takes cues from Ornette Coleman and Black Sabbath, fusing the complexity of avant-garde jazz with the immediacy of heavy metal. Listeners with short attention spans might be turned off, but those with the patience for extended atmospheres are in for a hell of a ride.
At five minutes in length and featuring a more obvious melody/solo structure, “Flew a Little Bullfinch Through the Window” is the most streamlined track on Red Kite. It’s refreshing to hear the drums and bass shift pulses between an ominous 4/4 shuffle and a flowing 6/8 groove. As hypnotic as it can be, an album full of unrelenting grooves can quickly grow stale. Hermansen’s effect-heavy tone adds a new dimension to the track, doubling a background wave of fuzz with a pin-point articulate attack. The shortest take on the album, but in no way bereft of ideas.
“Focus on Insanity” is the highlight of the record. Structured on frenetic pace and solos with intent, it’s intended to allow Moen and Hermansen to create as much musical havoc as they can, pushing the boundaries with distortion-heavy wailing guitars and freak-out keyboard sonics. Fans of the Mars Volta’s extended jams will find much to love about this track. Closer “You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know” takes a polar opposite path, focusing on a slower beat while subdued guitar and keyboard lines snake in and out of the mix. After the chaos of “Focus on Insanity”, “You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know” takes a sleepy and calming path out of the record. The hypnotic bent is precisely what we expect from Red Kite–colorful and patient.
The overall sentiment throughout Red Kite’s debut is heavy; bass and drums hammer out a steady beat while guitar and keyboards invoke a psychedelic witchcraft of melodies and drones. Repetitive? Perhaps. Still, there’s no denying of the comfort of Red Kite’s trance-inducing sonic mayhem.