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Crimetime Orchestra featuring Bjornar Andresen: Life is a Beautiful Monster

It’s been ages since I last heard a rock/free-jazz fusion 1/10th as good as this. Norway’s Crimetime Orchestra is a 10-piece band composed of five horns and a rhythm section heavy on the electronics. Consisting mostly of a suite in seven sections and recorded live in the studio, the album balances gritty spontaneity with just the right amount of preparation. The horn writing by tenor saxophonist-composer Vidar Johansen is complex and requires a certain amount of precision, yet the tightness is nicely offset by a loose, free-improv vibe.

There’s a heavy rock/noise component to this music, yet it breathes freely, thanks largely to the energetic and flexible drumming of Paal Nilssen-Love. The electronic effects by guitarist Anders Hana, synthesist Bugge Wesseltoft and double bassist Bjornar Andresen are a defining element. They’re grating and harsh, but in an entirely musical sense. Not gimmicky at all, they’re an organic part of the whole, intelligently used. The solos are excellent (altoist Jon Klette shines), and the energy is high. This is a bracing listen-an exceedingly well-done attempt at integrating the electronic with the acoustic, the groove with the free.

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