By Ed Pettersen
Rumblings. That’s how it starts. That’s how it always starts. A buzz in the distance, a hum, distortions, but then it starts coming closer. Closer. Like a heartbeat to the ear. Or a tank.
Maybe that’s how it sounded to my forefather’s as they came rolling through Norway in the 1940’s. Or to Martin Küchen’s family in Sweden. It’s also how his new album begins though the first track never reaches the roar of a tank. Just a fuzzy child’s toy. But it is ominous much like his brilliant 2012 Hellstorm album recorded in a church and inspired by the Nazi occupation and “the world’s worst war” (liner notes).
Buzzing, puffed breaths, humming, textures…these are all musical landscapes in Küchen’s world and you can’t help but pay attention. He never screams or shouts, even when he is actually playing his sax, but you can’t help and listen closer. That is his gift. And he never uses a cliché. Ever. It’s just not in his DNA. I imagine he doesn’t even know what it means. It appears he is in his own little world. These compositions on this album are very well not like anything else you will hear this year (or maybe any other year).
There are other great players, such as Arve Henriksen with his trumpet, who mine some of the same territory as Mr. Küchen but with them it almost sounds like an experiment, an affectation or dissatisfaction with their instrument but not here. Küchen is exploring his own personal space and doesn’t even know we’re listening and that’s fine with me (and I bet with him too).
Please understand, this is a delicate recording but not a fragile artist. To make music this bold and carefree you can’t possibly give a damn. And I think that’s the point and why, to me, it’s all the more powerful. A bit self-indulgent? Sure. That’s why I don’t give it 5 stars but otherwise I say bravo.