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Sebastian Gramss, Johannes Frisch, William Parker

Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany. Nov 2016. Photo by Martin Schray

Phil Wachsman (violin), Teppa Hauta-Aho (bass), Harri Sjöström (saxes), Sebi Tramontana (trombone), Paul Lovens (drums)

W71 in Weikersheim, Germany. Feb 2017. Photo by Bernd Scholkemper

Ava Mendoza (guitar), Mette Rasmussen (sax), Chris Corsano (drums)

Akut Festival in Mainz, Germany. November 2016. Photo by Martin Schray

ROPE - Uwe Oberg (piano), Frank Paul Schubert (sax), Paul Rogers (Bass), Mark Sanders (drums)

Manufaktur, Schorndorf, Germany. November 2016. Photo by Martin Schray

Dominic Lash (bass), Steve Noble (drums), Stefan Keune (sax)

W71, Weikersheim, Germany. November 2016. Photo by Martin Schray

Friday, March 24, 2017

William Parker & Stefano Scodanibbio - Bass Duo (AUM Fidelity, 2017) *****

By David Menestres

I imagine that most of the readers of this blog are familiar with William Parker, so let me introduce you to Stefano Scodanibbio. Scodanibbio (1956-2012) was an Italian bass player of the highest order. A frequent collaborator of composers like Luigi Nono and Giacinto Scelsi, he also commissioned many new works for bass from Bryan Ferneyhough, Fred Frith, Iannis Xenakis, and many other composers. His long discography includes sessions with Terry Riley, Thollem McDonas, the Arditti Quartet, and many more released through labels like ECM, Wergo, New Albion, and others. After his passing a memorial album, Thinking of Stefano Scodanibbio, was released and features performances from many great bass players like Mark Dresser, Joelle Leandre, Barry Guy, and Dieter Manderscheid.

Bass Duo is five tracks spread across sixty-three minutes, recorded live in Undine, Italy in 2006. The music is deeply riveting. My first spin of the album found me transfixed in front of my speakers, rooted deeply to the floor. The second listen, through good headphones, left my mind reeling. The duo unleashes such an unrelenting mass of sound, it’s hard to comprehend that it’s just two men playing together for the first, and only, time. When the grooves do appear, they sit in a pocket deeper than the Grand Canyon. Parker and Scodanibbio have both worked across many musical traditions. Their ability to play in and around these traditions combined with their unending creativity make for a wonderful album. As Mark Dresser puts it in the liner notes “both bassists have singular languages, they also have in common an understanding of musical function – utilizing sound, space, melodicism, pulse, harmonic underpinning, extended techniques, and pedal points to create states of multiplicity.”

I know this album isn’t going to sell many copies. Improvised music is hard enough to sell and bass duos are doubly hard, so thank to Aum Fidelity for making this important document available.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Satoko Fujii - Invisible Hand (Cortez, 2016) ****½

By Lee Rice Epstein

As a preface to this review of Satoko Fujii’s new solo piano album, Invisible Hand, I looked back at her massive discography and discovered that it’s been 20 years since her first solo album, Indication, with only two others since. For as expressive a voice as Fujii’s, I was a little surprised there had been so few (as was Stef, it turns out! When he reviewed Gen Himmel several years ago, he opened with nearly the same comment). But in many ways, it does make a lot of sense that Fujii, who exhibits a kind of boundless exploration that finds her often in new pairings or with new lineups for her international orchestras, would hold back from releasing a lot of solo piano works. In this way, she reminds me of Agustí Fernández, with their never-ending pursuit of new sounds, new groups, and new collaborations.

Invisible Hand is a two-disc recording of a live performance from 2016 at Cortez in Mito, Japan. The whole first disc is improvised, divided into five tracks, each displaying its own unifying, self-contained motifs and idioms. “Thought” opens the album with a deliberate, transparent approach that works as both an invitation and a warm-up meditation. By the time the gorgeous “Floating” expands into its bright middle section, whole worlds have opened up. Even alone, as she is here, there is an ever-present sense of dialogue. In the notes to the album, Fujii remarks that she originally turned down an invitation to play at Cortez because they only had an upright piano, and she often plays inside the piano. (Eventually, Cortez got a grand piano and invited her back, and lucky for us, she accepted the offer.) Even this simple technical description, “I play inside the piano strings,” understates the interior dialogue Fujii crafts. For a good, long stretch of the title track, “Invisible Hand,” the strings and keys are locked in conversation, as the piece extends into a lengthy self-reflection.

On the second disc, Fujii performs another two improvisations, as well as a couple of songs from Gen Himmel, “I Know You Don’t Know” and “Gen Himmel,” and the title track from Spring Storm. Naturally, “Spring Storm” is a dramatic alteration, the original was recorded with Fujii’s New Trio with Todd Nicholson and Takashi Itani. In the solo reading, Fujii creates an astonishing amount of drama to counter the brain’s desire to fill in with hints of bass or drums. Her take is broad and complex, halting at moments, as she contains the momentum of the piece with her tremendous command of the piano, inside and out. The result is utterly captivating. Equally great is this live take on “Gen Himmel.” Slightly pared down with Fujii’s attack slightly adjusted, the result transforms “Gen Himmel” into an act of in-the-moment self-discovery, rather than rediscovery. There’s a tremendous effect in closing this lengthy album with an expanded take on a previous album-opener. All the expectation that’s built into that studio recording is inverted, as Fujii performs an emotionally rich and reflective epilogue.

Available from Instant Jazz  and Downtown Music Gallery.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Arthur Doyle and His New Quiet Screamers - First House (Amish Records, 2016) *****



Live at the Stone, July 11, 2012

This is for Arthur Doyle, a free thinking spirit in a marginalised world.

When I think of Arthur Doyle, one of the several beautiful things that come into my mind, is his sax playing on Babi. And while Milford Graves seems to be the main figure behind this seminal free jazz workout, it's Doyle, with his thoughtful screams, who joins the dots (more then Hugh Glover) and transfroms the interplay between the artists into something magical to remember.

Beginning with that recording, we have listened Doyle express himself in a fierce, angry, both raucous and melodic way, free from all restraints and preoccupied thoughts. His personal journey began from the free jazz blowouts-in several formats and solo adventures-to the more melodic a la Sun Ra cosmic music of his electro-acoustic ensemble when the 00's arrived.

This shift gave his music a different approach and through this he established a more spiritual way for his art. I guess this was his choice for living too. This LP, First House, finds him, for the last time unfortunately before his passing, leading a new band-The New Quiet Screamers-follows the trajectory of his music from the last ten to fifteen years. It is a live recording from the Stone in NYC and marks a strange coincidence for me, because I was in NYC at that time but for some unknown reason to me did not attend the gig.

Considering how much I enjoy when the term free jazz collides with Doyle's sax, I must admit from the beginning that this is really free jazz. His nine-strong band follows him while he makes love with his jagged tenor sax or his gently blowing through a bamboo flute calls (for) us. This is calling, a shamanistic experience and Doyle is the leader of this ritual. You will not experience the synth or piano driven melodies of his electro-acoustic ensemble here. Tribal rhythms and free reeds are most likely to pave the way for you and me, the listeners, to find our way towards Doyle's (and the music's) wisdom.

To tell you the truth, I did not expect that to happen.Sometimes the music in First House is stripped bare, just the essential but different ones each time, while in other moments the whole of the band plays together with strong interplay and collective willfulness. This is hard to explain, a ritual, as I already mentioned, of sorts. Spiritual healing through a free jazz lens. It works like a prism that gathers all light straight to you heart and soul.

Musician's:

Tenor Saxophone, Bamboo Flute, Vocals – Arthur Doyle
Alto Saxophone – Jeff Tobias
Bass Guitar – Nicholas Emmet
Drums – Jason Robira
Electric Guitar – Jim McHugh, Matty McDermott
Percussion – Jessica Stathos
Piano– Robert Peterson
Trumpet – Dylan Angell
Vocals, Percussion – Eri Shoji

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ballister - Low Level Stink (Dropa Disc, 2017) ****

By Martin Schray

Ballister’s albums remind me of the first time I saw Henry Rollins and his band in 1986. I knew Rollins had a reputation as a live performer, and before the gig he seemed to be in a light-hearted mood, chatting cheerfuly. When he appeared on stage however, and the band launched into the first notes, Rollins exploded, the embodiment of aggression and energy. My jaw dropped, and I’ve rarely seen anything like it since – but Ballister’s live performances are of the same intensity.

Low Level Stink is the sister release of Slag (Aerophonics Records, 2017) recorded in Antwerp on the same tour, one day earlier. When Ballister (Dave Rempis on saxes, Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello and electronics, and Paal Nilssen-Love, drums and percussion) started their set, the audience was taken off-guard. A maelstrom of sound blew them away, and it felt like being dragged along by a speed-boat.

As usual, the band’s music takes in Rock’n’Roll thrash and punk rock. Yet never before have Ballister sounded so much like The Thing, Nilssen-Love's other free rock project with Mats Gustafsson and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. But The Thing are more soulmates of The White Stripes and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, while Ballister feel allied to Motörhead or Mudhoney. Their live sound is filthier, rawer and more screechy, with Rempis’s full vibrato, Nilssen-Love’s persistent boom and Lonberg-Holm’s nasty, barely bearable, feedback. The first eight minutes epitomize this: unadulterated improvisation fronted by an unapologetic saxophonist, howling at his audience.

Yet there‘s more to it than volume and ecstacy. Low Level Stink contains quieter and more nuanced moments, crackling and nervous soundscapes leading the listener into a labyrinth of sound. At the 11-minute mark on the A-side, Rempis‘ solo seems to guide us through his full arsenal, loosened up and less bellicose, as if he wants to say: “These are the ingredients of my sound, naked and exposed.“ The track on the flipside concentrates on these elements. It’s still dirty, but with more transparent textures, and Lonberg-Holm sounding like he’s tearing silk. Rempis provides a dreamy solo in the middle, and only at the end does the boisterous Ballister return.

Watch parts of the performance here:



Low Level Stink is available as LP/DVD edition of 300. You better be quick, and can buy it from the label.


Post Scriptum: Since I’m not a native speaker, I try to make sure that my reviews are in reasonable English, which is why I sometimes send them to Colin, who’s kind enough to revise them. I did that with my previous Ballister review. In his reply he wondered why, when writing about such music, it often sounded like the reviewer (not just me) had pulled on a pair of tight leather pants, using images of and analogies with speed, sex, violence, Satanism and death – straight out of Kerrang magazine – and that it would be good if someone tried approaching it from a different angle. I guess I‘ve failed again. Sorry, Colin. I’ll try to do better next time.

Post Post Scriptum: Actually, I think you’ve managed quite well. (Colin)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Earth Tongues – Ohio (Neither Nor, 2016) ****


By Dan Sorrells

As the sotto voce tendrils of Joe Moffett’s trumpet, Dan Peck’s tuba, and Carlo Costa’s percussion slowly worm their way into your brain, early impressions place Earth Tongues’ minimalist music in the company of other “quiet scenes” of improvisation: lowercase, onkyō, Echtzeitmusik. But these are superficial classifications (as is often the case when trying to neatly “sort” improvised music). The trio’s music doesn’t feel like it’s about silence or subtraction or austerity in sound; it doesn’t really feel like it’s concerned with the theoretical elements behind its creation at all. Instead, to the extent it’s abstract, it’s the kind of innate, organic abstraction that can be found by looking at (or listening to) the natural world from an unexpected angle. Indeed, it was only after listening to some of Toshiya Tsunoda’s field recordings that I found the best listening “posture” for Ohio: to hear it as though it were some unfamiliar, ambient environment, the sonic footprint of a place I’d never been to, but where I could also never go.

Ohio is Earth Tongues’ second album, and it pushes even further into improvisational extremes. “Ohio, Pt. II” is longer than the entirety of their debut album Rune. The music—two long tracks totaling an hour and a half—slowly reveals itself, retraining ears to the nuances of its unorthodox cadence and inflection. During “Pt. I”, nearly 20 minutes pass before a horn raises a full-bodied tone, and half an hour before the suggestion of some momentum via hypnotic, pulsing cymbals. “Pt. II” plays with long, overlapping tones and resonances, perhaps a bit louder than “Pt. I”, but no less ascetic. Ohio serves as both a reaction to and an embodiment of the boundlessness of free improvisation: in its restraint, endurance, focus, and discipline it simultaneously rejects the excesses that freedom affords and opens up the sort of immense expanse where just about anything might be encountered.

“Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything,” says acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, and this may well be the mantra of Ohio. Having been re-tuned to a fragile state of listening, huddling close, the listener enters a heightened space where sounds of the smallest size carry significance. But this vulnerability also allows the music to juxtapose its restraint with sudden intrusion, to inflict violence. After such a lengthy, hushed build-up, the blats of Peck’s tuba at the end of “Pt. I” are truly shocking—obscene, even. In its final minutes, it seems intent on jolting you out of whatever peace was to be found in its artificial ambiance, on reminding you how easily and utterly the quiet world can be blotted out by the noisy one.

Patience is rewarded by Ohio, and in the end it raises some interesting questions about the goals of improvisers and our expectations as listeners. Where do the sounds we choose to make fit into the natural order of the universe? And can they ever constitute a new one? Ohio doesn’t mimic the sounds of nature, but at times seems to enact a new realm of sound, one that feels primordial, prior to art and culture, something opaque and truly other. Or, as Tsunoda would say, it “fixes the experience of a landscape,” even if it’s a landscape we can’t literally visit.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

CP Unit – Before The Heat Death (Clean Feed, 2017) ****


By Chris Haines

CP Unit is Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax) and luminaries Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Tim Dahl (bass) and Weasel Walter (drums). The sound of the quartet borrows as much, if not more, from experimental hybrids of rock as it does from free jazz and improvisational forms. The music is at times highly energetic, dynamic and complex whilst delivering the strong punch and solidity of heavy rock music.

The album opens with ‘Fried’, a piece structurally divided into two parts, the first sounding like it could have been included on Captain Beefheart’s classic Trout Mask Replica, whilst the second part has the quartet punctuating a solid pulse of varying phrase length with what sounds like musical electric shocks. ‘Quantized’, is anything but that and starts with a guitar riff that wouldn’t go amiss on an 80’s King Crimson album or something by avant-proggers Thinking Plague. ‘Guillotine’ the shortest track on the album at just over a minute and a half starts and ends with the whole quartet delineating a single line, which is thrown aside for a chaotic and free frenzy for the middle part. As an antidote to the avant-rockism’s of the other tracks ‘Ballad’ starts like a classic piece of free improvisation – searching sounds in a pulseless environment which eventually forms the backdrop for Pitsiokos’ freeform soloing.

This is a great ‘little’ album, and here’s the rub, coming in at under the half-hour mark by today’s standards it leaves us wanting and expecting a bit more. However, sometimes great things come in the smallest packages and the fact that it leaves us wanting more is a testament to the quality of the music that this interesting quartet delivers.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stefan Schönegg - Enso (Impakt, 2016) ****

By Martin Schray

Stefan Schönegg is a young German bassist who studied in Berlin and Cologne, where he now lives and works. He‘s a founding member of IMPAKT (a composite of "IMProvisation" and "AKTuelle Musik"), a Cologne-based music collective which produces albums and organizes festivals and concerts in galleries, bars and small venues to provide better access to avant-garde music, ranging from free jazz and new classical music to electronica and noise.

Schönegg is a member of the bands Botter, Die Fichten and Simon Nabatov's trio, Enso is his first release as a leader. What’s immediately striking is the attempt to find a comprehensive musical language, a way to unite heterogeneity and homogeneity, something that can bring together new classical and improvised music in an organic way. Therefore Schönegg tries to balance improvisation and pre-existing material in a different way, though he’s aware that this has been done many times before. His approach is to base each of his pieces on a certain concept - whether there are completely notated parts or sparse guidelines like a melody or just a bass line – which provide some interesting results.

His music can be meditative (up to complete silence) but also tight and energetic. In general, the pieces tend towards minimalism, precise and to the point. Tracks like 'Thaha' are tender and beautiful, occasionally reminiscent of Michael Nyman's soundtracks, but with rough and edgy arcoed cymbals, where you can sense Schönegg's attempt to reconcile tonal congruence with abstract, angular, noisy and atonal sounds.

Sound colors are very important on Enso. Schönegg's bass is supported by Leonhard Huhn (alto and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet), Nathan Bontrager (cello) and Etienne Nillesen’s very individual prepared snare drum, and percussion. This leads to a very string-orientated, light and floating sound, such as 'Peaceful Multidimensionally', where Huhn's and Schönegg's long notes clash into Nillesen's hyperactive drum chattering, creating a dark atmosphere.

The best two pieces, 'Hellblau' (light blue) and the title track, try to capture certain moods. The first is melancholic with an impressionist cello wrapped in randomly whispered reeds and percussion, sounding like the wingbeat of a hummingbird. The latter has the tranquil atmosphere of untouched nature in the early morning. The music stops from time to time, as if awestruck.

Enso is a Japanese character: a circle drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create, symbolizing enlightenment, strength, the universe, and the void - everything and nothing. Like painters, Schönegg and his band create small studies in one elegant movement, effortless and fluid. It’s an intriguing collection from a talented musician of whom we should be aware in the future.

The album is available as a CD in a limited edition and as a download.

You can buy the album and listen to it here:


Watch the band live here: 









Friday, March 17, 2017

Harris Eisenstadt – Recent Developments (Songlines, 2017) ****½


By Eric McDowell

With Recent Developments, Harris Eisenstadt hits a milestone: twenty releases as a bandleader. By now it’s clear—if there was ever any doubt—that the Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based drummer and composer is here to stay, a fixture on the scene whose name, whether it appears on an album’s cover or deeper down in the credits, promises quality. Recent Developments bespeaks Eisenstadt’s veteran mastery not only in the music itself (more on that soon) but also in the details of its conception and production. Like a true professional, Eisenstadt made his initial compositional sketches on a nine-hour post-tour flight back to Brooklyn, working when he could have been resting. Even then he knew which players he wanted to work with, drawing on his established history of collaboration with some—Nate Wooley, Jeb Bishop, Dan Peck, Eivind Opsvik, Sara Schoenbeck—and his well earned reputation, perhaps, to attract others. Then, trusting his artistic process and maximizing efficiency, he refined the counterpoint, rehearsed the material with the band, and tested it live, saving a few final decisions for the day of recording. And the music has found a welcome home on Songlines, the Vancouver label that has become a regular host for Eisenstadt’s work. In short, this is a musician who knows what he’s doing.

Despite its newsletter title, Recent Developments is much more than a grab bag of tunes united only by their chronological proximity. Instead, Eisenstadt presents an ambitious suite of six parts, shot through with interludes and deliberately bookended. Setting up this quasi-novelistic structure, the album opens with a contrasting “Introduction” and “Prologue,” the former a nimbly darting duet for Anna Webber’s flute and Schoenbeck’s bassoon, the latter a dark and droning duet for bass and tuba. With twelve tracks to go—some less than a minute long, others five or six—some generalization may be in order. Parts one through six are longer and tend to be more through-composed, with an emphasis on groove, melody, and the aforementioned complex counterpoint. While they often layer in like Motown hits and feature some strong conventionally structured soloing, they also have a way of bottoming out in challenging solo or duo features and ending without a return to the melody. These six are the tracks most likely to get your feet tapping—“Part 2” positively swings, “Part 4” starts with second line tuba—or move you emotionally—Bishop’s smoldering solo on “Part 3,” cellist Hank Roberts’s surpassingly beautiful playing on “Part 6.” Throughout, there’s more masterful efficiency in the way Eisenstadt repurposes melodic material both within a track, trading it from one instrument to another, and between parts, creating echoes that tie the whole thing together.

Whereas Eisenstadt underpins even the more abstract moments of the main suite with punctuating unison figures, the playing on the interludes is—or at least sounds—freely improvised. And this is where the diverse instrumentation of the Recent Developments nonet really pays off. In an interview on his website, Eisenstadt makes an explicit connection between the album cover’s overlapping color-banded circles and the “wide range of timbral combinations… at the heart of the recording.” From the dark low registers of bass and tuba on one end to the flitting, brittle sounds of flute and banjo (Brandon Seabrook) on the other—with cello, trombone, trumpet, and bassoon in between—Eisenstadt has a veritable palette to paint with, exploiting varieties of density and texture as he layers his players up. The result is perfectly balanced—like Eisenstadt twenty albums in, never satisfied to stay in any one place or play to any one expectation for too long.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Suidobashi Chamber Ensemble - S/T (Meenna, 2016) ***


By Nicola Negri

Suidobashi Chamber Ensemble (SCE) is a chamber group devoted to contemporary and experimental music formed in 2016 by flute player Wakana Ikeda. The other members are Taku Sugimoto (guitar), a key figure of the Japanese free improvisation scene, with Yoko Ikeda (viola), Aya Naito (bassoon) and Masahiko Okura (clarinet and bass clarinet).

The five tracks on this album include performances from two concerts held at Ftarri, Tokyo, in May and July 2016, where SCE performed works by the composers of the Wandelweiser group, with pieces by Jürg Frey, Michael Pisaro and Antoine Beuger.

Dealing with Wandelweiser material, is no surprise that all these compositions have in common the exploration of sound through silence, and the record’s program reinforces this underlying theme delineating a sort of route from the almost complete silent “Exact Dimension without Insistence” by Frey, to the somewhat busier “Festhalten/Loslassen” by Pisaro. The instrumental combinations follow the same lines, from the duo configurations of the first tracks to the full ensemble on the closing piece. The musicians interventions are kept at an absolute minimum, with single notes appearing sporadically, slightly overlapping or left alone in the performance space, reducing the musical fact to its bare essentials – no extended techniques, no complicated harmonic relations – putting it under a magnifying lens, slowing it down beyond intelligibility, inviting the listener to decipher its hidden logic. Interestingly, chance have little space here – as Ikeda relates in the liner notes, in one piece children's voices could be heard in the original recording, and those parts were promptly edited out.

There’s always an intriguing aspect in these kind of explorations: on one side the theoretical preoccupations about the experimental aspect of this music are obvious, and at the same time there’s the spontaneousness of embracing ambience acoustics, and the environment we all live in, as the building block for the music to emerge – without effort, without necessarily a meaning.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Latest Duos of Mats Gustafsson

By Eyal Hareuveni

Swedish sax-titan Mats Gustafsson's volume of activity, including the many albums that he constantly releases, in every possible format, competes only with the intensity of his playing. The recent duos from Gustafsson stress the rich spectrum of his art.

Mats Gustafsson & Craig Taborn - Ljubljana (Clean Feed, 2017) ****½


Ljubljana is the 400th release of the Portuguese label and it celebrates this occasion with a special vinyl album that documents the first ever musical meeting between Gustafsson and American pianist Craig Taborn at the 2015 edition of the Ljubljana Jazz Festival. Gustafsson referred to this meeting as “a kick in the ass”, even begged afterwards: “please, give me more challenges like this one, in order to keep my sanity!”

Ljubljana does sounds like a meeting where some mean blows and kicks were exchanged. A muscular wrestling of heavy-weights champions of spontaneous improvisations, both as serious as their lives. Gustafsson sets the confronting tone of the first side, “The Eyes Moving. Slowly”, with dense and volcanic attacks of his baritone sax. But just when it sounds likeTaborn surrenders unconditionally to Gustafsson's lava flow he surprises and turns the intense course to a sparse and reserved meditation. Even on these quiet moments, before both resume the dense and powerful interplay, the tone is raw and rough and far as possible from the refined and polished one that can be found on Taborn's ECM albums, including the new Daylight Ghosts.

After establishing their rapport, the second side, “The Ears Facing the Fantasies. Again”, offers an open exchange of ideas. Both sound as enjoying exploring each other’s territory, disrupting its sonic scenery, exchange themes and alternate between improvisation strategies, even bare some fragile, melodic qualities when Gustafsson picks the slide saxophone. Both correspond immediately to each other’s gestures and never exhaust this playful and demanding process. Needless to say, the neither Gustafsson or Taborn feel any need to compromise or blur their distinct, strong-minded personalities.


Mats Gustafsson/ Alfred Vogel - Blow+Beat (Boomslang, 2017) ***½


Gustafsson’s long-standing trio The Thing performed last August at Beazau Beatz, Austrian drummer Alfred Vogel's annual festival, located at the resort town Beazau, at the western tip of the Austrian border. Gustafsson spent the weekend at this town and after a decent rest joined Vogel for a short session that yielded Blow+Beat.

Gustafsson challenges Vogel already on the first piece, “Solid electric glitter”, with a massive torrent of fast breathes and blows that only gets more intense and mightier, about to drown anything in its manic drive. Vogel accentuates and colors these tsunamis of blows but there is nothing else that he can do. But on the following, “Our thoughts split”, the two explore more balanced and varied dynamics, beginning with negotiating muscular and highly rhythmic free jazz terrains and later, suddenly morphing to some intimate and sparse sonic searches.

After exploring these sonic poles, Gustafsson and Vogel are ready to expand the palette even more. The 18-minutes “Clean my house” is a masterful free-improvisation. Gustafsson sings beautifully like a free bird, full of passion and emotion, soars high and sketches imaginary, poetic routes while Vogel colors this sonic journey with clever, inventive percussive touches, solid as the earth pulse. The following, brief four pieces sound like ironic, playful comments on the previous dynamics. These concise pieces adopt a nouveau-punk mentality, stick only to the essentials and throw all the rest.





Mats Gustafsson & Joachim Nordwall - A Map of Guilt (Bocian, 2017) ***


This is the most experimental album of the three duos. John Nordwall is the founder of the experimental Göteborg-based label iDEAL Recordings. He has played electronics on the first albums of Gustafsson’s Fire! Orchestra (Exit!, Second Exit, Enter, 2013, 2014, all on Rune Grammofon). Gustafsson returned the favor and released for iDEAL Recordings one of his soon-to-be a collectors-items, a limited-edition solo 7’’ vinyl, Lap Dance/Table Solos (45 rpm, 2014, only 200 copies were printed on a “tasty” transparent vinyl).

Nordwall is credited with “guitar wanking” and “synth loving” while Gustafsson with “blowing stuff”, “organ surfing” and “piano mating”. The duo was recorded at the Viennese Garnison7 studio on January 2013. The short opening piece, “The smell on her arms”, sets the album eccentric atmosphere. It features Gustafsson breathing into the baritone sax and adds percussive touches with the sax keys while Nordwall colors the piece with subtle electronics sounds. The title piece is a 19-minutes atmospheric drone that offers waves and whirlwinds of troubled, distorted sounds, The other shorter pieces continue this minimalist-psychedelic vein but with more concrete and tangible, raw breathes through the sax and touches on the guitar strings, still maintain the basic, naked vibe of the opening piece. Only the last piece, “Marks covered by wet cloth”, is charged with a noisy urgency, much needed intense energy and even traces of fragmented, tortured melody.