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Slugfield – Slime Zone


A ping hits my mind, over and over again, record crackle from the turntable, strange voices talking to me, giving me unheard messages, drums moves frequencies back and forth in all kinds of directions. Subtle periods mixed with what sounds most people would argue does not belong in music. Repeat-loop  train-tracks going to a playful sound together with jungle musique concrète. Stressed out or going through the motions with weirdness. Like a battle of the machines, a wall of sound, three people pushing the limits of what sonic space is left in my brain, rhythmic, not rhythmic, chaotic, almost sounding random but still focused. This time, the stage must have been packed with sound and noise.

The trio of Maja Ratkje, Lasse Marhaug and Paal Nilssen-Love has done occasional concerts as Slugfield since 2004. Finally, in 2010 during Oslo Jazzfestival, the trio did a recording of a gig and the result is now released as this album. Ratkje is a major figure as a composer of contemporary music as well as being known in the noise scene for works by fe-mail. Marhaug is the head of the Norwegian noiseniks, and Nilssen-Love is well established as the hardest working jazz drummer around. So it makes perfect sense that these three should work together. And as usual with these masters of the sonic avant-garde, they don’t care about any conceptions of what music is supposed to sound like.

The three musicians are strong individuals, and have such a way of working that whatever they do, it’s recognizable. But they still work well together. In the third track “Slugs for Lunch,” Ratkje either tries to eat slugs, being surprised at the taste or the texture, or is a wakening demon from the darkest realms of the netherworld or even beyond. The way she uses her voice has been remarkable for many years, still proving on this live (!) album that she masters (and keeps growing), using her electronics in who knows what way to move her voice from one end to another of the sonic palette. Remarkable, disturbing, and lovely, and the way the others fill out the frequencies makes it create a deeper impact.

Nilssen-Love is no less present on the recording, being the rhythmic force on occasions, using his drums and percussion in more ways that is normal for any standard drummer. Drums working like a rock machine, hard and heavy at times or hard and jazzy. Being noted for his hard work in long sets, this 50 minute recording is no exception, and the way he builds up a track like the lengthy “Bring ‘Em On” shows especially how he can start work slowly but move to quickly at his hard and fast pace and keeps his stamina. He is probably one of the hardest working jazz drummers I know of, and being unafraid of whatever he does, and who he works with, it is only natural that he fits well together with the avant-garde improv vocalist and the noise master from the northern realms. Marhaug, on this performance works with turntables as well as with electronics, creating massive soundscapes of wide ranges, and all the way to the subtle small crackles.

There is no way of finding a melody to focus on as usual with these three. They experiment with sounds, but they are also good with interplay, and sound like they work together as a team to achieve something, and listen to each other, not trying to make a competition out of it. Very much improvised, yes, but still very focused and well played together. If you want to be sonically challenged, but also have something wonderful to listen to, you cannot go wrong with Slime Zone. With great dynamics creating new images in my mind every time, I will not tire of this record. It will go into my collection of worth playing alone in the car anytime. I want to listen to more, and especially seeing this act live would be something to look forward to.

-Ronny Wærnes-

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