Samuel Hällkvist: Variety Of Loud

International supergroup-of-sorts get suitably expansive.

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Hällkvist is a big deal in Scandinavia. A few years ago the Copenhagen-based Swede’s debut album landed him the highly prestigious Jazz In Sweden gong. This compelling follow-up takes the restless jazz stylings of that first record three or four notches further. There’s plenty of prog, rock and experimental music scuffing up the boundaries, allowing a bunch of other players to guide what he calls ‘asymmetrical dance music’.

Key to all this rhythmic chicanery is a twin drummer format, namely Denmark’s Stefan Pasborg and King Crimson percussionist Pat Mastelotto. Factor in wordless Japanese vocalist Mai Ueda and New York keyboard whizz Pete Drungle (his CV includes Yoko Ono and Ornette Coleman) and you have a riot of intricate ensemble play.

This might suggest indulgent noodling, but the beauty of Variety Of Loud lies in a shared love of melody as much of improvisation, the band careful not to wander too far from a basic structure.

The knotty rhythms of Radio Waits For No One are brightened by fat keyboards and Hällkvist’s processed guitar, and the ebullient Urban Champion sounds like Crimson on a Sérgio Mendes tip. Masterful stuff.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.