Kurushimi are an Australian collective whose music blends jazz, metal, dub, prog rock and hip-hop. Their self-titled studio album was released in February on the Art As Catharsis label. Get it from Bandcamp.

The group includes Andrew Mortensen on bass and turntable; Simon Dawes on guitar; Chris Allison on drums; Kim Lawson on alto and tenor saxophones; and James Ryan on tenor and baritone saxophones and flute. Mortensen and Lachlan Kerr are also credited as conductors, exerting guiding force on the group’s improvisations the same way Greg Tate molds and shapes Burnt Sugar‘s jazz-soul-funk-metal pieces. But the form the actual music takes calls to mind John Zorn‘s Painkiller trio with bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Mick Harris. The way the saxophones float atop a dubby groove on the nearly 17-minute “Kimon” particularly recalls the lengthy excursions of their Execution Ground album, more than the short sharp blasts of their initial EPs, Guts of a Virgin and Buried Secrets. (Though the 18-second “Dodomeki” has that territory covered, too.) But the presence of two horns, and distorted electric guitar, also hint at the influence of Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick‘s early ’90s band God, whose throbbing marathon tracks were like a cross between Godflesh and Charles Mingus.

Each Kurushimi piece goes through multiple stages—calling them “movements” would be presumptuous, particularly with improvised music, but there are definite shifts in mood, frequently signaled by Allison, who speeds up from a rock-steady thump to a grindcore blast beat, allowing Dawes and the saxophonists to erupt into simultaneous skronky solos, then downshifts again, turning the whole thing into a swampy morass. What makes the group unique, though, and separates them from the influences described above, is Mortensen’s bass. He too takes a solo on “Kimon,” and it moves the music from deep Laswellian dub to something closer to prog rock, as he employs the instrument’s guitar-like upper register and carefully chosen effects to create genuine beauty amid the screaming and jackhammering.

This piece on Heavy Blog Is Heavy explains Kurushimi‘s methodology in some detail, including quotes from bandmembers; basically, they use “games” to conduct their improvisations—a given hand signal may indicate that someone should launch a dub groove, for example, or begin a grindcore section, or go in a jazzier direction, or mirror what someone else is playing. The results, at least on this album, don’t sound composed, but they also never sound aimless or meandering. This is highly potent instrumental music, obviously aimed at fans of loud stuff, but never devolving into noise for its own sake.

Phil Freeman

Stream the album on Bandcamp:

They also have a live album from 2015, available from the Sonichimaera label:

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