Humcrush, a partnership of keyboardist Ståle Størlokken and drummer Thomas Størnen, highlights the increasing futility of genre distinctions. Classified as “rock” on their one-sheet, the duo atomizes that ill-fitting ascription with the opening cut on Rest at World’s End, their third full-length record. Both men have strong ties to Norway’s improvised music community: Stornen as drummer with pianist Bobo Stenson’s quartet and Størlokken in collaboration with guitarist Terje Rypdal. Stenson and Rypdal are also long time residents of the ECM roster, another connection that comes through in the atmosphere-rich intricacies of Humcrush’s meticulously devised music. Staccato blasts of distortion and fuzz join with strident beats in syncopations on “Stream.” The armada of keyboard effects encompasses everything from antiquated analog blurts and beeps to the streamlined sounds of a more polished modern synth palette. The disc’s 11 tracks range from strenuous beat-revolving workouts to airy untethered excursions replete with frequent metamorphoses on the part of both players.
Størnen’s versatility parallels that of his partner with a calibrated touch to polyrhythms. There’s his textured brushwork on “Edingruv,” the delicate bell and cymbal punctuations of “Audio Hydraulic,” the quiet rumblings and tumblings of the planetarium-ready “Airport,” and the snare plus hi-hat minimalism of “Solar Sail.” In each instance, his kit conveys a contrastive acoustic grounding to the populous menagerie of Størlokken’s shapes and colors. Some of the interplay skirts perilously close to New Age navel-gazing, as on the incremental conversation of the title track, but even the saccharine sections exhibit an audible amount of spontaneous thought in their construction.
It’s unclear how many of the sounds are canned; Størlokken shapes a number of guises from saxophone facsimile to steel drums. At the start of “Steam,” his keys sound like a xylophone. A slippery assemblage of beats from Størnen arrives as springy counterweight to the layering of elongated tones. The track takes on a passing resemblance to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” as Størlokken ramps distortion to create craggy breaks in the lines while Størnen’s structures harden into lop-sided funk. “Creak” tilts between dense percussive outpourings and swathes of spacious near-silence, and “Bullfight” compresses comparable violence into an under-a-minute package. “Hit” brings a closing volley of funk with sprinting and splintering breakbeats and bright Casio-reminiscent washes that tap comparisons to Vangelis and vintage Dr. Who.
Nodding to the longevity of the LP and its primacy in DJ culture, the gatefold edition of the album adds seven bonus cuts to the program not found on the CD. Whatever file card it’s found under, the music is well worth hunting down.