A warning flag should go up anytime a CD’s liner notes include a sentence like this: “Of course the electric guitar trio is the paradigmatic power trio to the extent the format naturally favors amplification, energy and timbral expansion.” Aside from this nearly impenetrable position, the notes say Solar Forge has a pulse that is rarely heard in “scratchy, plinky, plonky, wheezy free improv.” It’s ironic since most of the album features that particular kind of music and it doesn’t have that much to do with pulse.
Totem> (yes, the karat is part of the name) consists of Bruce Eisenbeil (guitar), Tom Blancarte (upright bass) and Andrew Drury (drums). They open the album with some spastic improvisation marked by splatter effect drums, a bass that puts a bow through the ringer and a noisy guitar that gets locked into a fast, stereo ping-pong effect. For 15 minutes, they hit their mark. Two tracks later they revisit some of that same cohesion and frenetic power. But the two even-numbered tracks get lost into the most indulgent qualities of this approach, scraping and plucking without producing much more than metallic clatter. Here, they sound like three musicians playing at the same time rather than a trio playing together.