Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau . . .
Mats Gustafsson and the expanded Fire! trio return once again as Fire! Orchestra, with their third full length: ‘Ritual’ (Rune Grammofon). Contracted slightly on this outing to a 21-piece ensemble, conducted by Gustafsson, and inspired by texts written by Erik Lindgren, ‘Ritual’ is a double white-wax edifice, performed in five suites of semi-improvisational spontaneity. Gustafsson had hinted at the wanderlust of ‘Ritual’ when we’d spoken briefly at Cafe Oto in March, and I can duly confirm that my subsequent anticipation has been worth the agonising wait. Recorded and produced in a mere two days of studio time, this fact alone is testament to both the alchemical skills of the players assembled here, as well as the demands placed upon their own individual schedules by external projects. Thematically, ‘Ritual’ focusses on mystery: the rituals of music, the rituals of life. The majestic twin vocals of Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg; the oscillating electronics of Andreas Berthling; the propulsive drumming of Andreas Werliin and Mads Forsby; the massed saxophones of Anna Högberg, Mette Rasmussen, Lotte Anker, Jonas Kullhammar and Gustafson himself; the squaling guitars of Julien Deprez and Finn Lobo, all conspire as one gargantuan slab of free jazz-led, Sun Ra-tinged, psychedelic collapse, that thrills from beginning to end. Shuddering from climax to climax, ‘Ritual’ rises and falls in bi-polar fashion. Good cop/bad cop, light and shade. There is so much going on here that even a few weeks into exposure, there is promise aplenty buried within.
Icepick, a trio comprised of Nate Wooley (trumpet), Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten (double bass) & Chris Corsano (drums), follow-up their lo-fi live cassette-only debut, ‘Hexane’ (Astral Spirits), with this fidelity-conscious twelve: ‘Amaranth’ (Astral Spirits). Recorded in a single day in Austin, Texas, by Ian Rundell (Ghetto Ghouls), ‘Amaranth’ builds upon the foundations laid by said debut cassette, to free-sculpt three impressive compositions from the stone of free jazz improvisation. The ghost of Texan-expat Ornette Coleman haunts these grooves, but this is still far from traditionalist faire. Ominous passages klank and klang; melodies are ripped from the sonic darkness to lighten the palette; the bottom end rumbles and rolls, as Corsano darts in and out of the gaps on the park, filling the ambience with menace. ‘Amaranth’ announces Icepick as a force to be reckoned with, and Astral Spirits as a label of bravery and invention. In these conformist times, we surely need all the variation we can get.
Welsh double bassist and composer, Huw V Williams, has dropped one of the finest albums of the year thus far with ‘Hon’ (Self-Released). Complimented by trumpeter Laura Jurd, pianist Elliot Galvin, tenor saxophonist Alam Nathoo and drummer Pete Ibbetson, ‘Hon’ spreads pastes of Coleman and Ayler across nine slices from an electic musical timeline. Raised on a diet of indie landfill in his formative years growing up in Wales, his mind blown by the possibility of free jazz on his eventual escape to the big city, Williams’ compositions reflect this juxtaposition to forge a unique perspective that captivates from the first listen. ‘Hon’ is an incredibly warm record that embraces the twin-worlds of Williams’ influences so proportionally that the results prove to be as alluring as they are generationally representative.
Sloth Racket, a quintet featuring Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone), Sam Andreae (tenor saxophone), Anton Hunter (guitar), Seth Bennett (bass) and Johnny Hunter (drums), are not particularly slothful, it must be said. They do, however, make once glorious heck of a racket. The three pieces that comprise their debut CDR, ‘Triptych’ (Self-Released), explore freedom and structure, utilising compositions by Roberts that are as psychedelic as they are free jazz; as garage as they are concert hall. These improvisational upstarts are being hailed as the heirs to the throne of skronk, and it’s easy to see why. This is a hair-raising debut, extemporising algebraic approaches to molten form in an accessible yet angular fashion.
Cluster‘s legacy remains potent, decades beyond their halcyon era. The German core-duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius have their 1971-1981 output collected magnificently here with ‘Boxset’ (Bureau B). Representing the first decade of Cluster, this collection of eight original albums adds one bonus record documenting the live performances of the duo: ‘Cluster 71′ (Philips, 1971); ‘Cluster II’ (Brain, 1972); ‘Zuckerzeit’ (Brain, 1972); ‘Sowiesoso’ (Sky, 1976); ‘Cluster And Eno’ (Sky, 1977); ‘Eno, Moebius, Roedelius – After The Heat’ (Sky, 1978); ‘Grosses Wasser’ (Sky, 1979); Curiosum (Sky, 1981) and ‘Konzerte 1972/1977 (Previously Unreleased). The record’s sleeves have been designed after the colors of the legendary first album (Cluster 71). The original typo has been used, blue is the dominant colour, and the single LP sleeves use the variety of light yellow to dark red/brown which can be seen on the Cluster 71 cover art. The set includes a 12″ by 12″ booklet with essays on each release, along with the original album’s artwork. The albums have all been remastered by Willem Makkee, using a variety of original master tapes (from 1/4 to beta). Alongside previous collections from both Harmonia and Neu! in recent years, this beautiful boxset places Cluster firmly at the heart of an era in German music that still resonates to this day. The influence of Krautrock reverberates at the core of post-modern avante garde electronica, circa now, and the investment represented by this set is testament to its longevity.
Mythic Sunship, a quartet hailing from Copenhagen, eschew the Sun Ra meets Coltrane implications of their moniker for some heads-down, no-nonsense Wümme boogie. Coming on like a Münich-based Eternal Tapestry, Mythic Sunship drill their groove to the floor with cavernous basement foundations, and ride their trip all the way to the further reaches on the universe. Featuring Frederick Denning, of F.E. Denning/Descension Orchestra infamy, alongside a trio of fellow courtesans of the Posh Isolation/Mayhem scene, Mythic Sunship couldn’t be more unrepresentative of said milieu. ‘Ouroboros’, their debut album, excuses itself while it kisses the sky, recalling Amon Düül II’s defiant dedication to sonic expansion.
Neukölln, Berlin, based Cosmic Black Metal trio Sun Worship project enduring desolate images of frozen Scandinavian forests onto white walls of fresh snow through the medium of their sophomore vinyl full length, ‘Pale Dawn’ (Golden Antenna Records). Following in the footsteps in the tundra of their 2014 triumph, ‘Elder Giants’ (Dead Section), ‘Pale Dawn’ is duly executed without recourse to pretence or theatrical overtones. The riffs are razor sharp, anthemic, retaining the minor key somnambulant grace and splendour of the best of the genre. Pressed on 180g wax, in a heavy duty tip-on style jacket with foil stamping and full size insert, ‘Pale Dawn’ looks and feel as good as it sounds.
Finally this month, Greensleeves Records reissue six titles from Scientist‘s early 80s dub series. Ingeniously packaged as double vinyl sets, matching the remastered dubs with their previously estranged vocal progenitors, producers Linval Thompson and Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes deliver crucial selections of classic Roots Radics propelled rhythms recorded at Channel One and mixed by Scientist at King Tubby’s, restored to full majesty over six double wax sets: Junjo Presents ‘Heavyweight Dub Champion’, ‘Big Showdown’, ‘The Evil Curse Of The Vampires’ and ‘Wins The World Cup’, whilst Linval Presents ‘Meets The Space Invaders’ and ‘Encounters Pac Man’. Featuring a host of iconic vocal performances by the likes of Barrington Levy, Ranking Joe, Jah Thomas, Clint Eastwood, Michael Prophet, Johnny Osborne, Wailing Souls, Sammy Dread, The Viceroys, Toyan, Eek-A-Mouse and The Meditations, amongst a shining host of others, these reissues are proving to be a revelation here in the trakMARX bunker. Imagine this approach catching on for other dub classics, such as the African Dub Almighty series, the Cry Tuff Dub Encounter series, or King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown. Food for thought, mobsters!