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Hilmar Jensson: Tyft

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Hilmar Jensson and his bandmates on Tyft have been throwing it down together since their school days. The Icelandic guitarist met drummer Jim Black and saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo over a decade ago. Jensson and Black were students at Berklee and D’Angelo worked nearby as head of the jazz department at a nearby Tower Records. Though they’ve run in the same musical circles for over a decade, they have waited until now to record together for the first time.

Of course, several years and bands later, they’ve had the opportunity to pick up a few new tricks. Jensson and colleagues expand the group’s sound with the steady use of laptop-generated noise. Jensson isn’t much of a chordal player, so its not a bad idea. Where lots of bands use this sort of thing for filler or background, Jensson successfully integrates the laptop sounds into the group sound-as a rhythm foil for Black’s brawny (sometimes comically so) drumming or even as the primary voice here and there. That the laptop works out so well tends to point out the recording’s major failing, however.

The rangy Tyft tilts heavily toward either abrasion or atmospherics at any given time, and the recording tends to jump between them without much warning. Jensson is primarily interested in texture and space, and with his limited sonic palette (plus a laptop wildcard) he comes up with some beautifully strange sounds and passages. But the recording is sporadically coherent at best. Tyft combines a big sack full of disparate elements-big heavy metal riffs, skronk jazz, funk, electro-fizzle and Ornette Coleman-style disembodied melodies-but fails to make anything solid out of it. Melodies and composed sections only seem to exist to set a mood or, more typically, to act as a sounding board for jarring juxtaposition. Some numbers kick up a lot of dust, others never really get beyond incidental music, and much of it wanders.