Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lean Left - Live at Cafe Oto (Unsounds, 2012) ****



By Philip Coombs

This is an album that is all about the rhythm. From beats to pulses to heartbeats to the sounds of the doomsday clock. From precise muted guitars to repetitive saxophone lines and tones, they are all being accented by Father Time himself Paal Nilssen-Love (drums).

Before I continue, I feel compelled to comment on the album cover ....... To save space and greatly reduce my word count, I have decided to omit my views on the cover and the way the recording was edited. The music is a more important discourse. Philip.

Now that I have that out of my system, I can focus my attention back to where it should be; the music, and in most places, it is truly remarkable.

The recording is being billed as the Ex guitars meets the Vandermark/ Nilssen-Love duo but it is not as cut and dry as that. The Ex guitarists, Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor, create a wall of amplified goodness while elevating the tremolo bar into high art. The Vandermark/ Nilsson-Love duo though are not as you would normally hear them on any of their many recordings. Vandermark (sax and clarinet) is using his tenor sax more as a rhythm guitar trying to get in the pocket with the Ex guitars. There are moments of screeching madness but he is primarily pulsating single notes or basic runs almost with a rock or funk sensibility, very different from his cacophony of searching notes. The duo sound a little vulnerable here, willing to be led more than be the leaders.

After the break in the first track, 'Koevoet (Live)', Vandermark picks up the clarinet. He now has lead guitar in mind blasting idea after idea over the Ex guitars who supply a great textural pavement for him.
The Ex guitars work so well together that it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. They finish each others phrases and let the moment breathe when quiet is needed. Even their guitar tones sound similar. The end of 'Drevet (Live)' is a good example of how they speak through steel strings and electricity.

As much as I've written about the the other three, Nilssen-Love can never go unnoticed or unmentioned as he can still find new ways to communicate on a very basic drum kit. Not a lot of bells and whistles on this one. Yet another of his master classes on an album where rhythm is in the spotlight. So please don't judge the album by its cover.
Can be purchased through Instant Jazz.

An older clip of them performing.

© stef

1 comment:

Paolo Casertano said...

I totally agree Philip. A great record in one of the most unattractive cover I can remember. Luckily there is now this vinyl edition on Kollaps Records of the two day residence that this powerful collective + guests held at Cafè Oto on September 11/12 2011. Two LP, one for each night.
Marvellous sleeves and photographs included.
It may help you to forget...