By Matthew Kassel | Published October 2019
Finnish-born guitarist Olli Hirvonen can shred, but he isn’t ostentatious about it. On his third album as a leader, Displace, Hirvonen takes a number of dramatic solos, but they never feel as though they’re put forth for their own sake. Instead, every line counts and each note is clearly articulated. Hirvonen appears to have drawn from a number of sources for this record, including Kurt Rosenwinkel, whose heroic soloing style is echoed here, and John Scofield, referenced in the bandleader’s oily tone. In terms of group sound, the 30-year-old is channeling a lot: metal, noise, Explosions In The Sky, The Bad Plus, The String Cheese Incident, Squarepusher.
Despite that mad swirl of influences, everything comes together to form a cogent whole. On his previous two albums, Detachment and New Helsinki, Hirvonen—who also plays a pivotal role in Brian Krock’s liddle and Big Heart Machine ensembles—brought on horn players who seemed like ideal additions, but in some ways distracted from the ensemble sound. Here, the bandleader’s backed just by an acoustic trio that includes pianist Luke Marantz, bassist Marty Kenney and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell.
The album has a consistent feel throughout: rockish, kind of heavy, but still nimble. Marantz, an elegant pianist, often offers repeated lines, which the band builds to intensity. Kenney’s round bass lines keep everything in place, and Ellman-Bell’s dry cymbals and thick snare sound combine to create gluey beats. Hirvonen is alternatingly dexterous (“No Light”) and strummy (“Displace”), muddy, overdriven and clean. He shows us the various aspects of his sound, and it seems as if the guitarist has hit his stride with the excellent group on Displace.
Displace: No Light; Displace; Nondescript; Size Constancy; Faction; Tactile; Unravel. (47:17)
Personnel: Olli Hirvonen, guitar; Luke Marantz, piano; Marty Kenney, bass; Nathan Ellman-Bell, drums.