When it comes to the Golden Age of fusion, let's get arbitrary: 1968-1974. Many speak with reverence of Miles, Gary Burton, Larry Coryell, the (original) Mahavishnu Orchestra, the early editions of Chick Corea's Return To Forever, Billy Cobham, Weather Report and Jaco Pastorius And well they should. But there were a few other performers and bands breaking ground back then and one of the best (and most short lived in its original incarnation) was the Tony Williams Lifetime. Consisting of drummer Williams, guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young (later to be joined by ex-Cream bassist Jack Bruce), Lifetime presented a variant on jazz/rock/whatever fusion that was dense, volatile and caustic. The surly, pugnacious side of rock melded with the wild, spiritual post-Coltrane aspects of jazz. For whatever reasons, this version of Lifetime only produced two proper albums, Emergency and Turn It Over, before it was succeeded by other lineups and a more "accessible" sound.
What's all-of-the-above to do with Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise? Everything, pilgrim. Firstly, a similar instrumental palette: drummer/leader, organist/keyboard-fellow, electric/occasional acoustic guitarist. While it might seem to be an "organ trio" setup, this is not soul-jazz while in no way imitating Williams' Lifetime mk. 1, they are carrying on in their burnt-into-the-earth footsteps. Mike Outram's six-string style recalls pre-Mahavishnu McLaughlin in terms of dramatic tension and majestic tone. But Outram plays, for the most part, a bit slower, occasionally embracing some beautiful Sonny Sharrock/Elliott Sharp-like noise barrages along with some judicious use of the once-hip wah-wah pedal. At times, he evokes late-period Hendrix, not "sounding like" Jimi, natch, but being like him, based in the blues, wild and soulful. Sirkis plays in a bombastic, yet oddly not overbearing manner. He's as "out-front" as any other crew-member. Most importantly, he knows when to pull back. Organist Steve Lodder has an almost churchy style, albeit more out of the European rather than the American gospel tradition. Lodder is more Phantom of the Opera gothic than Jimmy Smith cooking, but don't read that as stiff or staid. His playing seethes and simmers on its own (somewhat cerebral) terms, and has a hauntingly regal tone (recalling early/mid-1970s Les McCann), to boot.
Volatile and strangely classy, The Song Within is one of the more welcome surprises of '07. You think nobody's doing fusion with the passion and intensity of its Golden Age? Listen up.