Mac Randall, December 2017
"Björkenheim applies a bow to his guitar for extra menace on the title tune, while the bouncy “Jitterfug” prompts his and Lyttinen’s rawest and wittiest playing. “Sunflower” is an expansive space-out, and “Ecstasy Dance” closes the program in roiling, rousing fashion."
Doug Simpson, February 2018
"Doors of Perception is loose in the best possible way and yet disciplined. It’s quite an experience to explore the development of eCsTaSy as a performing ensemble and an improvising group. If you prefer jazz and improvised music which has a flinty-edged, electric-fusion timbre, take time to hear Raoul Björkenheim and eCsTaSy."
Raul da Gamal, February 2018
"At the end of the music one gets a sense of sculpted sound, but the combination of instrumental timbres is often radiantly beautiful, suggesting something bejewelled and glowing; ultimately totally and completely in keeping with the ‘purely aesthetic’ and ‘sacramental vision’ of Aldous Huxley and William Blake.”
Michael Ross, November 2017
"Björkenheim adds some new tones to his signature edgy yet vocal style, (like wave form distortion), yet his distinctive instrumental voice continues to shine through.”
Downbeat, May 2016
”Equally on-the-edge and indefinable* is Finnish guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s eCsTaSy. While the quartet, fueled by the muscular bashing of drummer Markku Ounaskari, explodes with blowtorch intensity on the free- jazz opener, “Heads & Tales,” they settle into the infectiously funky second-line groover “Quintrille” with harmonic chemistry."
(* compared with Samo Salamon's trio, also reviewed)
Jazziz, spring 2016 2015
"Out of the Blue is a whole made of integral parts. A narrative logic pervades the enigmatically charming album, which begins with the angsty shuffling of the mostly improvised “Heads and Tales”, its brief melody appearing only at the very end. The song cycle concludes seven tracks later with the muted percussive hypnosis of the West-African influenced “Zebra Dreams”. To their credit, the band is very much a band and the album, very much an album, two rare distinctions in today’s fragmentary jazz world."
Something Else Reviews, december 2015
"Since forming in 2010, Raoul Björkenheim’s eCsTaSy quartet has been testing the limits of what’s possible when experimental rock and free-form jazz are put into a supercollider. By the time they issued their first album at the beginning of 2014, this band showed cohesion and telepathy rare in a band where volatility reigns supreme."
Jazztimes January-February 2016
"Critics have heaped lavish praise on guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s curious brand of improvised jazz, and understandably so, even if commonly drawn parallels (Ayler, Coleman, Coltrane, Mahavishnu, Hendrix, Fela, et al.) only serve to underscore the audacious yet ultimately elusive nature of his music. Out of the Blue, the second recording by his stellar Finnish quartet eCsTaSy, will help burnish the band’s growing reputation for creative synthesis and spontaneity."
Audiophile Audition, February 2016
"A party vibe permeates the rollicking, vigorously-swinging “Quintrille,” which is laced with Bjorkenheim’s guitar sparks, and the group’s brawny bass/drums beat. Mainstream and unconventional jazz meet headlong on the aptly-named “Roller Coaster,” where soprano sax, prepared guitar, zigzagging drums, and quick-fingered bass craft a boisterous, somewhat demented clatter, like a 21st-century twist on Carl Stalling’s cartoon music…. This is material which is engaging, bristly, combines old and new, and is unpredictable.”
KJHK, summer 2106
“Out of the Blue is a smorgasbord of hand picked ideas that are explored with the improvisational prowess of Bjorkenheim’s quartet. Each song paints a visual picture when listened to which is something avant-garde artists can rarely accomplish due to the wild and abstract nature of the genre. Raoul Bjorkenheim and the eCsTaSy quartet seamlessly blend “inside” and “outside” playing in Out of the Blue to create an experimental jazz album for the likes of even the more conservative jazz listener.”
Guitar Moderne, January 2016
Top records of 2015: "Raoul made the list last year and this year’s release is equally stellar."
Helsingin Sanomat October 2015
"Rajoittamattoman jazzin ja rockin rajamailla risteilevä yhtye vaikuttaa toisella levyllään myös edellistä keskittyneemmältä, vaikka materiaali on edelleen monimuotoista.Ehkä se johtuu vain jäsentelystä, sillä joka toinen Out of the Bluen kappale on nyt laulullisempi ja perinteisemmin koukuttavampi. Pidemmät ja improvisoidummat kappaleet ovat silti melkein yhtä lailla sävellyksellisiä, hypnoottisemmalla tavalla koukuttavampia."
Hufvudstadsbladet October 2015
"Att bandet är en liveupplevelse av stora mått kunde upplevas vid skivsläppet för ett par veckor sedan. Björkenheims musik bygger inte skrankor mellan genrer utan kan förena lyssnare med olika utgångspunkter och preferenser för den musikaliska hörseln.
"Puis vint le quartet eCsTaSy de Raoul Björkenheim accompagné par le batteur Markku Ounaskari, le saxophoniste Pauli Lyytinen et le contrebassiste Jori Huhtala. Là encore les parois tremblèrent. Mais elles furent secouées par une énergie audacieuse servant des compositions ciselées, aux muscles saillants, ouvertes sur des improvisations impétueuses quand elles n’approchaient pas la convulsion hyperthermique. A l’avant-garde toute !"
Downbeat magazine, march 2014 issue
"The Finnish guitarist plays his unpredictable but always beautiful-sounding electric guitar on this new set. “El Pueblo Unido”
gets right to the point. Björkenheim’s hard-edged,piercing sound jabs and floats over Jori Huhtala’s flittering bass lines and the rolling drums of MarkkuOunaskari. Saxophonist and kalimba player Pauli Lyytinen is a wild spirit, but he’s also capable of melodic playing. “Deeper” is an interlude featuring Huhtala’s solemn arco bass. Here, it’s complemented by equally gentle,haunted wailings from the leader. The music proceeds through more variations, including an appropriately titled free
piece (“Through The Looking Glass”) and delicious, groove-oriented electronics and ballads (“Subterranean Samba,” “Threshold”)."
Something Else Reviews, January 2014
"My first encounter with the dazzling whack jazz guitar wizadry of Raoul Björkenheim came via one of his many projects, the Norwegian-Finnish power combo Scorch Trio (Luggumt, 2004). Another time came in 2011 when he got together with Bill Laswell and drummer Morgan Ågren (Blixt). It seems that every time I come across this cat, I'm listening to some of the most exciting, edgy and intelligent music experimental jazz has to offer.
He's done much more than these things, such as leading the furious and fearsome group Krakatau and his own albums for the ECM label during the 90's. Now he's come back into awareness with the first release by his latest project, eCsTaSy.
eCsTaSy is a band Björkenheim formed in 2010, stocked with players from the L.A.-born guitarist's ancestral country of Finland. Saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen, bassist Jori Huhtala and drummer Markku Ounaskari complete this potent quartet. What's more, their first and self-titled album convinces that Björkenheim didn't pick these guys because they're Finnish, he chose them because they are incredible and selfless virtuosos who happen to be from Finland. Consistent with Björkenheim's own musical personality, eCsTaSy roams just inside and outside the perimiteres of jazz, and they subscribe to the gospel of impulse as much as they adhere to even the outer regions of jazz."
For whole review see:
Jazz Times, June 2014
"The key to the album's excitement lies in the group interaction; Pauli Lyytinen plays both tenor and soprano with a force that holds its own alongside Björkenheim's guitar. And the leader's role is primarily as a conduit for feeling, able to leap from yowling leads to melodic textures without turning either situation into an opportunity for indulgence. eCsTaSy ends too soon, a delightful rarity in these days when more often means less."
"Finnish guitar-wriggler Raoul Björkenheim is a man who likes to stay busy. Over the course of a career spanning two continents (he was born and raised in the U.S., decamped to Finland for thirty years, and moved to New York in 2001) and four decades, his restless imagination has led him in some very unexpected directions. As might be expected from his cross-Atlantic wanderings, he’s picked up Janus-faced influences that guide his own music: he’s firmly grounded in the European avant-garde that developed in the 1970s, but his work also displays liberal doses of American free jazz of the Ornette Coleman variety as well as slices of the Chicago style, and lately he’s formed kinship ties with the New York improvised music scene via an association with the likes of William Parker and Hamid Drake. Combine this with a love of fiery blues-tinged rock guitar and you’ve got a player whose catalogue reads like the work of a man who’s never quite satisfied."
For whole review see:
" Well-known in Finland for his work with drummer Edward Vesala, guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s playing is a contentious mix of electric rock riffs and jazz harmonies."
For whole review, see:
Culture Jazz, France
"Ce quartet finlandais impressionne par son engagement et sa cohésion, jouant une musique d’une grande richesse, jamais lassante dont l’énergie dissipe en un éclair les froides brumes nordiques. Raoul Björkenheim joue avec ferveur comme un allumé d’Hendrix et Markku Ounaskari confirme qu’il est un des grands batteurs scandinaves. Tous sont "remontés comme des pendules" ! Inspiration à feu vif !"
For whole review, see: