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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Chrome Hill, This is Chrome Hill (Clean Feed, 2020) ****

By Gregg Miller

In a word, free-rock Americana (by way of Norway). The record opens gently at a walking pace, but once the electric guitar and snare drum get busy, it becomes a chunky, patient march, one part electrified Western film, the other a slightly drunk steamroller. The guitar takes the cake. (It’s the same beat as on their 2012 release, Country of Lost Borders which opens with the Neil Young cover “Dead Man Theme.”) The second tune has a rock structure, led by the tenor sax. As in the first tune, it starts simply enough, but then in additive manner, it becomes a handful of sonic puzzle pieces fitted shakily together. There is a looseness to the playing. Nothing too serious, here, but everything played with intent. Some nice grooves. The funky bass and drums hold it all together, allowing the tenor and electric guitar to freestyle. Third track: some hard hitting, pounding drums, straight-ahead rock jamming. Pogo-stick slam dancing could easily accompany this beat. The fourth track, “Interlude,” calms things down. It’s a country guitar slow ballad with a distant tambourine on beat three. On “10-4,” while sort of another “Interlude,” is in fact a quite lovely bass-led piece over held guitar notes with lots of reverb, tremelo, and backward effects. The tenor enters like an extension of the bass. Some Pink Floyd action lilting into Pharoah Sanders. After the smooth space jazz we move into a jagged, freer mess. Lots of distorted guitar, heavy on the pounding drums and the double kick bass drum. A raging sax. Let your freak flag fly, dudes. “Within” opens with a sweet tremolo guitar playing a sing-songy, lilting ode to some memory or other. A splash of carnival, but sincere. The closing tune is a lovely anthem. Some nice clarinet (I think) and sliding guitar through bit-breaking effects into a clearing of bowed bass over beating toms. Just flick your lighter to high and sway to the beat.

I like this record. It is super good-natured and fun, and that comes through in all the playing. These cats are enjoying the music, and it’s infectious.

Chrome Hill is:

Asbjørn Lerheim baritone guitar
Atle Nymo tenor saxophone
Torstein Lofthus drums and vibraphone
Roger Arntzen double bass