New Norwegian jazz music is constantly pushing back its borders and expanding the traditional boundaries of the genre. One of the foremost examples of this eagerness to experiment, exhilarate and excite is the three-piece combo Krøyt, whose members work together from three different Norwegian cities.
The group started out in 1993, when the main members met up at the Jazz Department at the Music Conservatory of Trondheim. Kristin Asbjørnsen (vocals), Thomas T. Dahl (guitar) and Øyvind Brandtsegg (vibraphone) found that Krøyt offered them an opportunity to try out musical ideas and formulas that did not fit within the framework of their studies.
Today, the breaking down of musical frontiers is generally appreciated by both critics and audiences in Norway, and few bands have done more to champion the cause of musical freedom than Krøyt. Not only is their music a veritable melting pot of different styles and genres, with elements ranging from technological torrents of noise to low note lyricism. They also incorporate visual elements in their live shows that far exceed what is usually expected from a jazz trio. An array of costumes, lights and video elements lends an air of performance art to their concerts, without distracting from the essence of the music, which is in itself multi-layered and eclectic to the extreme.
In this sense it should come as no surprise that Krøyt also stretch the traditional perception of a trio. While the musical core is made up of Kristin, Thomas and Øyvind, the Krøyt team is in reality five persons strong, with the added live wizardry of Magnus Torkildsen (sound) and Atle Ramsøy (camera). Performances by Krøyt tickle a wide variety of senses, and even the musicians’ handling of their instruments becomes an essential part of the visual spectacle. Øyvind Brandtsegg makes use of so called motion-capture sensors to create his particular soundscapes, where the careful movements of his electronically rigged body trigger the sounds and rhythms emitting from the computer. In this way the musical and the visual aspects not only enhance each other, they are virtually inseparable. With the added attraction of Ramsøy’s excellent camera work – often consisting of close-ups so extreme they take on an almost abstract air – rhythmically underlining the mood of the performance, it is no wonder that an ever growing number of audiences are taken in by the Krøyt experience.
The first Krøyt CD, Sub, was released in 1997 and was a summary of what the trio had been dabbling in up to that point in time. It was a brave and varied recording debut, which earned the youngsters a lot of respect in more established quarters. It was not until the arrival of their second outing in 1999, however, that the general public in Norway started catching up with them. Low is a denser, yet impressively delicate and detailed offering, and intentionally goes beyond any kind of musical labelling. For the first time the lyrics were almost exclusively in English – hinting at the musicians’ ambition to reach out to an international audience. The music scene in Norway might afford Krøyt the openness they need to follow their personal vision, with important local venues such as the hot new jazz spot Blå, but their main hope is to turn on listeners all over the world to Krøyt music.
Earlier this year Low was awarded a Norwegian Grammy in the Open Category – a category reserved for music which basically defies classification. At the same time their songs got heavy rotation on both national and alternative radio. In June Krøyt took part in the prestigious Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York City, and have recently been touring in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Germany. While foreign audiences and media alike might be hard pressed to pinpoint their exact musical style (jazz? alternative? avant-garde rock? contemporary?), an increasing number of enthusiasts are starting to take notice.
When pressed for a snappy description of their music, the members opt to call it “pop music for the future”. If such is the case, the future might be an exciting place to visit right now, but it is not easily arrived at: by their own admission, Krøyt spend much of their time deconstructing and re-building their songs. “If somebody else could have played what we are doing, it is simply not Krøyt music.” It is a bold statement of intent but also one that might very well pay off in the long run.
Along with fellow alternative jazz newcomers Cloroform and Wibutee, Krøyt have set their controls for the heart of the internationally creative music scene – a journey major Norwegian players like Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal undertook many years ago, and one which each new generation has to make for itself.