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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Johs Lund and Henrik Pultz Melbye - Play Baritone Saxophones (Svala Records / Aether Productions, 2018) ***½

By Paul Acquaro

The Baritone saxophones is big and formidable. I've always enjoyed the power and sonorities of the large woodwind, and it seems it is the last sax that one can play without having to sit, or have some sort of contraption scaffolding the instrument. Folks like Dave Rempis, Ken Vandermark, and Mats Gustafsson eat up the instrument, often luxuriating in the instruments powerful, reverberating tones. This Scandinavian duo takes a different tact, here Johs Lund and Henrik Pultz Melbye, both accomplished musicians who work within the experimental, jazz, and rock worlds, enjoy the sonic possibilities of two bari-saxs in three one-take improvizations. 

The two use circular breathing and engage extended techniques to create an immersive musical environment that envelopes the listener. The notes for the album claim "this puts both the musicians and the listener in a state of trance and provides a multidimensional soundscape that is overwhelming, compact and intense." I see no point in disagreeing with this open-ended description, but would like to add a little more concretely, the two can sound as kinetic as bees dancing around hive full of honey or as sinister as waiting all night for something anticipated and terrible that never happens.

The music on Plays Baritone Saxophones is experimental and hypnotic. It advances without moving, a constant buzz without a stated goal. The longer and deeper one listens, the more the little changes and variations make bigger differences. Patterns set up expectations and the musicians then subtly break them, introducing new lines within the confines they set up. Just two saxophones, but so much use of the imagination that it seems like much more. Listening requires relaxing, letting the patterns swirl around, and grasping the deviations. 

I've unfortunately let this one, along with many other fascinating recordings, languish. Go to Bandcamp and add it to your collection ASAP.


Captain Hate said...

Thanks for making me aware of this. The first two cuts have so much going on it sounds like stuff ROVA would occasionally do, except only by two baritones chattering away so densely it's hard to believe it's not by more inputs. This will merit further listens.