Hexabit: Unrulers

Swedish sextet temper what was invoiced as a cacophonous and experimental set with fast-acting injections of musicality and steel guitar

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It’s risky for promoters to describe an album as cacophonous and experimental – because a hefty chunk of the jazz demographic is severely allergic to records promising a wild, weird experience. Unrulers offers an antidote to this hypersensitivity of the aesthetic immune system. The six Swedish improvisers in Hexabit make sure fast-acting injections of musicality are always safely within reach.

The band is an expansion of a smaller group, Trilobit. The original setup comprises Stina Hellberg Agback on the harp, with Simon Svärd on steel lap guitar and Karl Jansson behind the drumkit. Hexabit adds Örjan Hultén’s saxophones, Tove Brandt’s bass and Daniel Olsson’s drums. They refer to themselves as a double-trio, with a pair of three-piece groups acting independently.

This instrumentation offers potential to interweave and coalesce, and that happens on Troy. The lap steel-guitar drifts around, at times difficult to distinguish from the saxophone, harp or bass. A neat two-bar phrase acts as a sonic seatbelt until a scrambled final two minutes where the emergency door bursts open, sucking the familiar riff out into the sky and unleashing crazy weather in the cabin.

Martin is a more composed track, in both senses of the word. The saxophone croons a dreamy melody over whistling birdsong from guitar and shimmering stardust from cymbals. The song gently turns and undulates like an old carousel. Dips and rises flow in a way that feels natural and organic.

Unrulers features untypical ideas and unusual instrumentation. Improvised interactions give Hexabit their distinctive colour, and the group delivers glowing grooves and lyrical moments too. Sensitive listeners can press play on this record without fear of breaking out in a rash. The reaction may even strengthen their store of aural antibodies – and give them a taste for wilder, weirder experiences.

Discography
Troy; Time Is Up; Mock Duck; Moon Trip; Martin; Lokomotiv (43.05)
Örjan Hultén (ss, ts); Stina Hellberg Agback (hp); Simon Svärd (lap steel-guitar); Tove Brandt (b); Karl Jansson (d); Daniel Olsson (d). Stockholm, 2022.
stinahellbergagback.bandcamp.com