Hell of a collab, this one: experimentalist Mats Gustafsson has played sax 'n' reeds as part of The Thing and with Phil Minton, and here joins post-rock minimalist Johan Berthling (fresh from a record with Oren Ambarchi) and Andreas Werlin of the percussive dance crew Wildbirds & Peacedrums. As Fire!, a group that once extended to an orchestra of thirty, they're going to improvise, a lot, and see what comes out. I imagine 'She Sleeps, She Sleeps' will garner psychedelic fruits.
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Once, they were an orchestra; now, all is fire. Here, at the core of one of modern music’s most notorious free jazz communities, we have tenacious tenorist Mats Gustafsson, alongside bass athlete Johan Berthling (also of post-rock nappers Tape) and drummer Andreas Werliin, better known for being in Wildbirds & Peacedrums. That’s a lot of good music to reference in one breath, but I shouldn’t complain, considering the innings Gustafsson puts in on this record on his various saxes. Despite minimising from a gathering of thirty musicians down to just five (Oren Ambarchi and Leo Svensson Sander also make brief appearances,’ cos they’re good pals), ‘She Sleeps, She Sleeps’ has the same energy and fullness this band retained even when there was that extra word after the exclamation mark.
So the room is on fire, as Julian Casablancas (not present) decrees, and now it’s time to jam. These four songs see Gustafsson improvise (maybe? More on that as the story develops) some of his most accessible material -- it’s not got the brute force of ‘Stones’ with Stetson, for instance, and when it does, that energy is packed quite nicely into subdued rhythmic combinations from Werliin and Berthling. Ambarchi’s disengaged guitar chords place a certain earthy grounding on the free proceedings of “She Owned His Voice”, while the band overall seem very dedicated to constructing considered atmospheres, through the clarification of certain drum beats and the very pointed screeching of Gustafsson’s sax -- it feels like actual climaxes are being prepared.
“She Sleeps”, the record’s title track, is an unexpected heap of gorgeousness, bridging the free parts of this trio’s sound with some of the tensest percussion, an elastic bassline and sax that shimmers as much as it groans. It sounds like real good escapologists sneaking around in a room filled to the brim with different alarm systems, each sirening as they continue to tiptoe and whisper. How stubborn. Quite the surprise, this record: I expected the chaos I know and love, but I found myself exercising patience, waiting for something shattering to happen and finding myself satisfied when it didn’t. This is free jazz for window shopping: admire it without getting too close.
Also, as a bonus, here's Phil's review: "not my fucking tempo".
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