The Void Of Expansion: Ashes and Blues
A New Wave Of Jazz

Yodok III: Yodok III
A New Wave Of Jazz

One shouldn't read too much into the name Dirk Serries has given his Tonefloat offshoot A New Wave Of Jazz, conceived as a home for limited vinyl releases that bridge his own long-developed musical world and the free jazz scene. If the sub-label's premiere releases are any indication, its material is hardly jazz as conventionally known: there's neither round-robin soloing nor jazz-styled heads; instead, the music patiently unfolds as an ever-swelling mass of volcanic intensity. Despite the difference in the artist names, the projects overlap: The Void Of Expansion pairs drummer Tomas Järmyr with Serries on electric guitar, whereas Yodok III supplements the duo with Norwegian Kristoffer Lo on amplified tuba and flugabone (though, to be clear, it's Järmyr and Lo who formally constitute Yodok, with Serries the addition). Both releases have been prepared in amounts of 240 vinyl copies and include download codes plus inserts featuring informative text by Guy Peters.

It makes sense to begin with the self-titled disc by Yodok III, given that it was recorded two years before The Void Of Expansion's. Laid down in two days in August 2012 at the Athletic Sound Studio in Halden, Norway, Yodok III presents two side-long pieces, both untitled and in the twenty-three-minute range. Lo's amplified tuba and flugabone playing fill the role typically accorded the bass player in a trio of this kind, even if his fog-like expressions define themselves less sharply than would a bass. Anyone familiar with Serries' playing (as documented in a large, decades-spanning catalogue of releases) will know that he doesn't solo in the conventional manner but instead generates textural masses of an all-consuming magnitude.

On the album's opening piece, his tremolo-laden figures multiply into dense clouds, the slow-build conducted in concert with Lo as their contributions at first alternate and gradually merge. The trio takes its time coaxing the material into being, with Järmyr only making his presence felt four minutes along and Serries unleashing an aggressive ripple at the seven-minute mark. His playing assumes a more molten character thereafter when egged on by the rapid increase in activity in Järmyr's playing. Eventually we find ourselves at the center of a storm, with the drummer using cymbals, snare, and toms to generate a whirlwind, alongside of which streams a thick wail of guitar, amplified tuba, and flugabone textures. In contrast to the slow-build of side one, the second opens dramatically with thudding drum strikes and groaning guitar lines suggesting an almost death metal-like state of affairs. The music plods along at a crawl, as if the players are providing a funereal soundtrack to some last rites ceremony. The piece isn't static, however, as the density and volume incrementally increase, and Serries' lines grow ever more searing and Järmyr's playing ever more tumultuous. On both of the album's sides, the music, equally ritualistic and meditative, exudes an elemental force that's contributed to equally by all three musicians.

Two years on from the trio set, Järmyr and Serries reconvened at the Sunny Side Inc. Studio in Anderlecht, Belgium on February 15 to record Ashes and Blues under The Void Of Expansion name. Having primed themselves for the studio session with two duo concerts in Belgium, the musicians were ready to take on the challenge of recording without Lo's involvement. In contrast to the two side-long settings of Yodok III, Ashes and Blues presents one sixteen-minute side-long piece and two others of slightly shorter length. If there's a soloist on these recordings, it's less Serries than Järmyr, whose uninhibited playing reflects a non-stop level of invention. That's even more apparent on the duo set, where the absence of Lo makes it easier to differentiate between the contributions of the players. If Serries' playing is as raw on Ashes and Blues as it is on Yodok III (though a stronger hint of wah-wah is audible on the duo set), Järmyr's ascends to a more furious level of activity. On side one's “Paradox” and “Damper” and the flip's “Consecration,” he punctuates the low-pitched smolder of the guitar with an endlessly inventive barrage of hi-hats, cymbals, and drums. The music, a seething cauldron of an inordinately powerful kind, isn't without structure, however, and neither is it bereft of control, as testified to by the duo's carefully executed modulations in dynamics and tempo. Ashes and Blues isn't jazz per se, but it is most definitely free-spirited.

August-September 2014