Arashi – Jikan (PNL Records, 2019) ****½
That drummer Paal Nilssen-Love is a hard-working musician is an understatement. We’ve already seen two very nice releases from PNL Records on this side of 2019, both reviewed here, and now comes two more. First up is the super-trio Arashi with the freejazz legend reedsman Akira Sakata and the Fire! bassist Johan Berthling, returning with another album after their celebrated debut, follow-up Semikujira, and live album from the Trost Live Series. None of these players need much of an introduction on FJB. My expectations putting on this album for the first time was high. Hard hitting free jazz rocker Nilssen-Love, the dark bass from the inner fires of the earth Berthling together with the master himself Sakata. I mean, what can one expect other than something very special?
What we’ve got here is a live album recorded at the Pit Inn Club in Tokyo back in September of 2017. The first track doesn’t throw us over the edge to chaos and madness, but rather begins with Sakata’s voice over a dampened bass and small bells. But of course, it doesn’t last. This is just the start. I wait patiently as Berthling takes the first part of this track and starts to transform, reconstruct, and rebuild it. As we pass the eight-minute mark, tension increases as Nilssen-Love joins in. This almost ritual and meditative state of mind built up over this track is promising. The gift of patience is rewarding as percussion, bow and voice takes me to the start of the second track. Sakata’s alto cuts through the silence and the rocking motion of Berthling and Nilssen-Love is now building up to an unavoidable eruption. After sixteen minutes of this album, Arashi is finally ready to kick the doors wide open and away we go. Berthling brings that dark, dark carpet of rumbles and the temperature at the Pit Inn Club must’ve really reached the boiling point as the intensity keeps increasing.
On the albums third track, the trio demonstrates how tight they are. Their collaborative effort and responsiveness inside a vehicle running at full speed is very impressive. There are no blurry lines what so ever as the group charges onward and after an extended duo-solo part by Berthling and Nilssen-Love, Sakata joins back with voice to some how calm things down. Arashi finishes a beautiful album with percussive explorations and Sakata on clarinet. The final track is an emotional excursion, that allows me to reflect upon what I’ve just heard; which is indeed something special.
Paal Nilssen-Love & Ken Vandermark – Screen Off (2019, PNL Records) ****
Nilssen-Love and Vandermark has worked together in many different groups for many years. This duo album is a historical journey through ten years of their duo collaborations, edited and mastered by Lasse Marhaug. We get to hear 21 two-minute parts from live YouTube-clips from between 2008-2018. No video, just audio from different live-cuts. They’re not edited to be in order of performance year over year, but rather in a 42-minute-long expedition into the wild and free, which has edited cuts that transports us from part to part. It doesn’t come across as a sampler of this spectacular duo, but rather as an extended performance that forces the listener to pay attention to how the different parts are held together. Marhaug has done this in a masterly way! I don’t listen to this as an evolutionary transport from one place to another, or to showcase the duos work together over time, even though it is a historical journey, but rather as a stand-alone document of a free jazz duo that deserves to be heard and respected, packaged in a very cool way.