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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Martin Küchen & Anders Lindsjö - The Stork and the Chimp (Konvoj, 2018) ****

By Nick Metzger

Saxophonist Martin Küchen and guitarist Anders Lindsjö are from the prolific Swedish free improvisation scene which consistently produces excellent new collaborations and releases. Küchen is an abundant composer, improviser, and bandleader who is a member of Heat Death, Trespass Trio, and leads his various Angles combos and has also worked with Joe McPhee, Steve Noble, and the Fire! Orchestra. Anders Lindsjö plays in the groups Maxcolic, Or Never, the Artfarmer, and his free guitar trio Halster. This album, and Happi from the Tatakai Trio (reviewed the other day), find them teaming up for duo and trio sets with Küchen on sopranino and soprano saxophone as well as snare drum and Lindsjö on (mostly) acoustic guitar.

In ‘is it?’ the duo start off moderately then quickly accelerate into a dynamic interchange that’s percussive and fiery. Lindsjö’s stable guitar playing provides a platform for Küchen to throttle his saxophones over. On ‘art thou’ the wiry guitar work is peppered with violent spittle-pocked squawking and agitated squeals. ‘why’ offers more variety in terms of pace and timbre. The piece begins with guitar that’s percussive and plucky over which the muted saxophone takes on a vocal, kazoo-like quality. Lindsjö utilizes his wah-pedal to good effect on ‘tat twam asi’. The result is subtle and provides a bit of color to the piece. Likewise, Küchen many times plays both the soprano and sopranino at once, powerfully blasting them like a grotesque party favor. In ’it is our’ the duo engage in dialogue that feels reflective. The saxophone almost sounds bluesy and lamenting at times while the guitar playing is melancholic and sparse. ‘how is it?’ closes out the album finding Küchen trying to simultaneously play his snare and two saxes while intermittently producing vocalizations that would blend right into the background noise of a George Romero film. Lindsjö provides his most rhythmically diverse performance of the set, alternating scattered fingerpicking and choppy chords to ground Küchen’s paint peeling warbles and honks.

I genuinely enjoy the approach both of these musicians have to their instrument on this album. The spare instrumentation creates a good deal of contrast between the two players which is further highlighted by the superb recording quality. The guitar remains quite clean throughout the record and provides terrific rhythm and texture. The saxophone is unhinged all the way through and it’s satisfying to hear the higher pitched saxes being pushed and punished like this. You get the sense that conventional conversations between Lindsjö and Küchen might yield similar dynamics.