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puma - Half Nelson Courtship
The first Rune Grammofon album (and third overall) from this young Norwegian trio, who as the label puts it "musically started out as the younger cousins of Supersilent". Half Nelson Courtship is certainly not an album living in the shadow of the improv titans, however, and spending only a short amount of time with Puma's music reveals a more pronouncedly visceral and untamed element running through their recordings. The trio is comprised of drummer Gard Nilssen of (among several other bands) Bushman's Revenge, experimental guitarist Stian Westerhus and keyboardist Øystein Moen - a graduate of the prestigious Trondheim Jazz Conservatory, who like Westerhus is known for working as part of Jaga Jazzist. Each member proves themself to be a formidable presence across this record, exhibiting not only a strong technical grounding but a capacity for shapeshifting that leaves you guessing the derivation of some of these sounds. In its quieter moments the album reveals moments such as the Loren Connors-like misty tremolo guitar of 'Bison Woven', or the strange tactile soundscaping of 'Last Waltz', though at its noisiest Half Nelson Courtship really explodes into life. 'ME.O.W. represents one of the more forthright entries, caking on the droning distortion while urgent drum rolls bound through the piece with a massive low-end presence. In a similar vein, 'Knitstep' ascends to cacophonous post-rock levels of grandeur only to be sabotaged by inspired, rampant drumming that helps break the mould at every turn. Further to the contributions of the players, the always brilliant Jørgen Traen takes charge of production, bringing a beautiful analogue tone best heard on the likes of 'East West Horizontal March' and the pleasingly decrepit 'Gabardine Lingerie' - a factor that in itself greatly adds to the overall class and quality of this fine improv album.