THE THING with Barry Guy | METAL ! | No Business Records

Mats Gustafsson – baritone, tenor and slide saxophones | Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – bass (left chanel) | Barry Guy – bass (right chanel) | Paal Nilssen-Love – drums

Recorded live at Saint Catherine’s Church, Vilnius, Lithuania on 3rd April, 2011 by Arūnas Zujus. All compositions by Mats Gustafsson (STIM), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (TONO), Paal Nilssen-Love (TONO) & Barry Guy (PRS), except “Ride the Sky” by Lightning Bolt, “Praseodymium” by Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (TONO) & Barry Guy (PRS) and “Neodymium” by Mats Gustafsson (STIM) & Paal Nilssen-Love (TONO). Mixed and mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Produced by The Thing and Barry Guy. Executive producer – Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

Tracklist Side A 1. Lanthanum  2. Cerium Side B 1. Praseodymium 2. Neodymium Side C 1. Promethium 2. Samarium 3. Europium Side D 1. Gadolinium 2. Terbium 3. Dysprosium 4. Ride the Sky

THE THING with Barry Guy | METAL ! | no business records

Photo by Jörg Fischer

Barry Guy

is an innovative bass player and composer whose creative diversity in the fields of jazz improvisation, chamber and orchestral performance and solo recitals is the outcome both of an unusually varied training and a zest for experimentation, underpinned by a dedication to the double bass and the ideal of musical communication. He is founder and Artistic Director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the BGNO (Barry Guy New Orchestra) for which he has written several extended works. His concert works for chamber orchestras, chamber groups and soloists have been widely performed and his skilful and inventive writing has resulted in an exceptional series of compositions. Barry Guy continues to give solo recitals throughout Europe as well as continuing associations with colleagues involved in improvised, baroque and contemporary music. His current regular ensembles are the Homburger/Guy duo, the Parker/Guy duo, piano trios with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Lytton, Jaques Demierre and Lucas Niggli and a recently formed trio with Agusti Fernandez and Ramon Lopez. He continues the longstanding trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lytton as well as projects with Mats Gustafsson.

Barry Guy is an innovative double bass player and composer whose creative diversity in the fields of Jazz improvisation, solo recitals, chamber and orchestral performance is the outcome both of an unusually varied training and a zest for experimentation, underpinned by a dedication to the double bass and the ideal of musical communication. Between the early Seventies and mid Nineties Barry Guy held principal bass position in various orchestras including The Orchestra of St.John’s Smith Square, City of London Sinfonia, Monteverdi Orchestra, The Academy of Ancient Music, Kent Opera and The London Classical Players. During these years he was also active in the European Improvised Scene. He is founder and Artistic Director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra for which he has written several extended works with recordings of the following: Ode (Incus 1972 and re-released on Intakt 1996), Stringer (FMP 1980), Polyhymnia on ZURICH CONCERTS (Intakt 1988), Harmos (Intakt 1989), Double Trouble (Intakt 1990), Theoria (Intakt 1992) with the Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer as soloist, Portraits (Intakt 1994) and Three Pieces for Orchestra (Intakt 1997) and Radio Rondo (Intakt 2009).

His concert works have been widely performed and his skilful and inventive writing has resulted in an exceptional series of compositions: Flagwalk (1983), The Eye of Silence (1988), Look Up! (1990), After the Rain (1992), Bird Gong Game (1992), Fallingwater (1996), Redshift (1998), Remembered Earth (1999), Nasca Lines (2001), Folio (2002) and Anaklasis (2003), The Butterfly Series (2002/4), Convergence (2006), Horizontal Blue (2008), Tales of Enchantment (2010) , FFF (2010) a.o. Look Up! was honoured with the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber-Scale Composition 1991–1992. Guy’s compositions usually reflect a personal liaison with musicians and ensembles he writes for. As such, the commissions arrive from chamber orchestras, chamber groups and soloists interested in contemporary musical performance with a special commitment to communicate with the audience. Guy’s works therefore have a sense of freshness without recourse to ideological excesses or scores that baffle players to the extent that performing becomes a trial. The scores however are virtuosic and often present innovative sonorities and extended instrumental techniques and as a performer himself he is ideally placed to assess these possibilities.

Barry Guy continues to give solo recitals throughout Europe as well as continuing associations with colleagues involved in improvised, baroque and contemporary music. His current regular ensembles are the Homburger/Guy duo, the Parker/Guy duo, piano trios with Marilyn Crispell and Paul Lytton, Jaques Demierre and Lucas Niggli and a recently formed trio with Agusti Fernandez and Ramon Lopez. He continues the longstanding trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lytton as well as projects with Mats Gustafsson. The Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGNO), formed in 2000, features in festivals as a project ensemble, and Barry Guy as a director/composer is often invited to work with large ensembles using his own extensive library of composed works or to give lectures and workshops on his various graphic scores. BGNO’s first album Inscape-Tableaux was a recipient of the 2001 Choc de l’Année award in France. And his second composition Oort-Entropy for the BGNO also received the same award in the following year.

Late 2005 saw him working with the ICI Munich orchestra and the Glasgow Improviser’s orchestra. In 2006 he was featured composer at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK). After living in Ireland for nine years, he and his wife Maya Homburger moved to Switzerland in 2006 where they continue to run their CD Label MAYA Recordings and contribute to the New, Improvised and Early Music Scene as well as touring with a variety of musical projects all over Europe.

THE THING with Barry Guy | METAL ! | no business records

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8 thoughts on “THE THING with Barry Guy | METAL ! | No Business Records

  1. With the Scandinavian trio The Thing having set itself up as improvised music’s version of the Rock power trio – albeit with a saxophone instead of a lead guitar – it’s instructive to note how well senior improvisers operate when entering into the band’s self-defined context.

    Having established a mutually satisfying interchange with American saxophonist/trumpeter Joe McPhee, The Thing now uses this two-LP set to showcase the adaptations of British bassist Barry Guy to their sound. Guy, who founded the London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra in the 1970s, and is known for his collaborations with most top-rank European improvisers including tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, was involved in Free playing from around the time the Thing members were born. Since the early 1990s however, Swedish saxophonist and Thing member Mats Gustafsson has been playing with Guy in larger or smaller ensembles. Meanwhile on their own the other Thingers – Norwegians, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love – have racked up a history of affiliations with a cross-section of committed improvisers ranging from saxophonist Peter Brötzmann to guitarist Raoul Björkenheim.

    Recorded in Vilnius, Lithuania, the 11 tracks on this CD demonstrate how easily Guy holds his own with the other three players. For instance “Lanthanum” initially creates a synapse out of Gustafsson’s intense flattement and diaphragm-forced snorts, Håker Flaten’s thumb pops, Guy’s rhythmic stopping and Nilssen-Love’s resounding clatters. As the saxophonist balloons his tone from stentorian to altissimo, drum beats multiply and cymbals reverberate as Guy responds with angled, sul ponticello scratches and strums. Meantime Håker Flaten’s tune extensions include measured pacing and banjo-like plinks, leading to a contrapuntal melding of bass tones.

    “Europium” on the other hand balances tongue slaps from Gustafsson’s baritone saxophone with echoing plucks from Håker Flaten. After both string players engaging in a two-step of whining guitar-like picking, the baritonist’s guttural, splintered segments coalesce into droning pedal-point. When further variations in this broken-chord intermezzo are heard they expose simple drum-led time-keeping. Ultimately through the use of multiphonics from each player combine for a moderated ending.

    Throughout enough space is apportioned so that each man’s technical prowess is on display. Guy’s plucks, rebounds and string ruffling, extended and doubled with tremolo slaps from Håker Flaten; as well as the drummer’s measured clangs on small bells plus tougher thumps on drum tops are some of the high points.

    If there’s one vulnerable point nonetheless, it’s Gustafsson’s tenor saxophone. Dyspeptic slurps and pressurized snarls are impressive enough when he plays baritone saxophone, but when he turns to tenor, the staccato peeps, vocalized screams and bugle-like exclamation are an little too close to Albert Ayler territory to be totally satisfying.

    Still as an extended example of how to integrate Heavy Metal and Free Jazz sounds, you can’t do much better than Metal! Plus the project incorporates a guest soloist, whose improvisation skills are embedded in an original interaction.

  2. The Thing’s recent collaboration with Don Cherry’s daughter Neneh went all indie-viral. Now that they are in the spotlight, it’s time to see if they can hold the attention of their newfound fans in the pop world. While The Cherry Thing did not compromise the trio’s howling aesthetic, revisiting rock anthems like the Stooges’ “Dirt” and Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” while fronted by a sultry songstress is an easier sell than bludgeoning through 17-minute tracks of free jazz/noise. On a two-LP-only set from a Lithuanian record label. And with a guest known more for his classical training than his alt-rock cred.

    Still, there is some hope. If Peter Brötzmann’s 1968 Machine Gun remains the ideal free jazz entry point for adventurous rock fans, Metal! may not be far behind. Both have an edgy, punk feel, and both feature over-blowing sax specialists. Indeed, the Thing’s Mats Gustafson could be sonically mistaken for the elder German, and has been a member of Brötzmann’s tentet. Both records are anchored by two bassists, and while Metal! features only one drummer compared with Gun’s four-stick drive, Paal Nilssen-Love’s blur-motion inventiveness can propel any set.

    Metal! is more clanging than headbanging, with power riffs replaced by Gustafson’s bristly sax swagger. Nilssen-Love flits like a hummingbird one instant but swoops like a hawk the next. The low-enders include regular Thing bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, heard in the left channel, and Barry Guy, long-time leader of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, on the right. The two take complementary approaches: Guy’s mastery of extended technique injects textures into each line, wooden thwack followed by haloed harmonics; Håker Flaten supplies oomph with regular rhythms but also takes the occasional flight of fancy.

    Metal!’s tracks are all named after radioactive elements. In an immediate test of mettle, “Lanthanum” leads off in familiar Thing territory, with unrelenting torrents of sound upheld by acidic sax lines and augmented by the weird thickets of Guy’s bass. “Promethium” is sparse, with one bass squealing while the other throbs time, Gustafson honking short blasts. These two strategies typify the approaches taken on the album.

    As final enticement to noise rock fans, a two-minute cover of Lightning Bolt’s “Ride the Sky” ends the record, its stop/start frantic riff enveloped by shredded sax.

  3. Inviter un quart à venir l’augmenter tient maintenant de l’habitude pour The Thing. Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Otomo Yoshihide, Jim O’Rourke… Aujourd’hui, les conviés ont pour noms Neneh Cherry (sur The Cherry Thing dont l’écoute s’avère bien dispensable, pour ne pas dire déconseillée) et Barry Guy – contrebassiste avec lequel Gustafsson avait déjà signé Sinners, Rather than Saints sous étiquette NoBusiness.

    Le 3 avril 2011, ce sont donc deux contrebasses et quatre amateurs de graves qui échangèrent à l’église Sainte Catherine de Vilnius – où fut enregistré le disque Guy / Gustafsson plus tôt mentionné. Håker Flaten à gauche, Guy à droite, Gustafsson à l’avant et Nilssen-Love à l’arrière : l’équipe ne tarde pas à développer un discours commun, âpre et surtout moins cadré que de coutume. Bien sûr, The Thing joue encore des épaules, mais il entame dans le même temps une conversation avec l’instrument basse qui change ses manières.

    Ainsi les cordes lustrent-elles le cuir épais de « la chose » – Guy et Håker Flaten profitant de beaucoup d’espace (Praseodymium, Neodymium) – et la transformation agit, sans toutefois réussir à étouffer toute la furie du baryton, tous les grondements de la batterie. Et puis, au contact de Guy, The Thing perd de son intérêt pour le crescendo implacable : son inspiration joue maintenent de déliages et de contrastes. Les arabesques sensibles de la quatrième face abandonnées enfin pour une récréation-réceptacle de tous emportements racontent ainsi assez bien de quoi retourne cet impressionnant goût de Metal!

  4. In science, a substance which causes an increase in the rate of a chemical reaction is called a catalyst. In musical combinations, the inclusion (or sometimes even subtraction) of one player can have a similar result, often completely altering the regular dynamic. So it proves on Metal! where Scandinavian power trio The Thing are transformed by the addition of English bass maestro Barry Guy. However the foursome’s interplay, captured in sparkling sound from a live date in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, smacks of alchemy transcending any more prosaic chemical process.

    The ten collectively birthed constructs and one cover on this vinyl double LP set the pulse racing and give food for thought in equal measure. Paradoxically, Guy’s presence results in performance which accentuates quiet timbral colloquy over no holds barred tumult, though Swedish reedman Mats Gustafsson’s smoldering volcano is always on the verge of eruption. That magical tension between the Englishman and the Swede has been exploited in a many arenas over the last two decades, with the saxophonist featuring in the Barry Guy New Orchestra, and the latest incarnation of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, as well as in various duo and trio settings with the bassist. Among those the Tarfala Trio’s Syzygy (No Business, 2011) provides one particularly potent example.

    Both individual prowess and highly attuned responsiveness inform every piece. Bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten rises to the challenge of performing on the same instrument alongside one of free music’s premier improvisers. Though typically muscular and forceful and more likely to deploy repeating patterns, the Norwegian also enlists subtlety and variety in his armory. Guy produces an astounding range of interventions, delighting in sudden contrasts, often within the course of the same phrase. High koto-like plucks jostle with resounding thwacks and scrapes, hums and ripples of indeterminate origin, and even occasional snatches of melody. Indeed the interchange between the two bassists is just one of this releases many virtues, not least on “Praseodymium,” a mercurial duet which moves through a kaleidoscope of moods, from boisterous to pensive.

    Also contributing to the distinctive flavor, drummer Paal Nilssen-Love demonstrates careful restraint. More colorist than powerhouse for much of the set, the space he demarcates allows the twin basses to percolate through the rhythmic latticework as peers. Gustafsson remains a force of nature, with a mighty post-Albert Ayler shriek which carries great emotional heft in its paint stripping vehemence. But equally affecting are the elegiac meditations which come in the aftermath of the storms. It’s the contrast between the two which enhances both, as proven repeatedly on “Lanthanum” which evolves from the conversational to the incantatory as the energy levels to ebb and flow throughout its 16-minute duration.

    Quieter interludes occur with more regularity than might be expected given The Thing’s reputation. “Samarium,” featuring Gustafsson on slide saxophone, is meditative and atmospheric, while “Terbium” showcases Guy’s harmonics, framed by a bass and baritone drone. More in line with expectations is “Europium,” where spacious interaction between the Swede’s baritone saxophone and the bristling basses builds to a formidable exchange and a sizzling cymbal feature for Nilssen-Love. Even here the intensity is undercut by a breathtaking coda of swooping spidery arco overtones from Guy. A ferociously tight reading of noise rock band Lightning Bolt’s “Ride The Sky,” reprised from the trio’s Action Jazz (Smalltown Superjazzz, 2006), completes the performance in exhilarating style, creating a wonderful counterpoint to the preceding 70 minutes. Any downsides? Well only one: the decision to issue this set on vinyl perhaps means that it sadly won’t be as widely heard as it deserves.

  5. The Norwegian/Swedish jazz power trio The Thing (saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, drummer Paal Nilssen-Love) has been active for 12 years at this point, and has released nearly as many albums, including collaborations with Joe McPhee, Jim O’Rourke, Otomo Yoshihide, Thurston Moore, Ken Vandermark, and a group called the Cato Salsa Experience. But to my ear, they’re at their best when it’s just the three of them. The combination of Gustafsson’s blustering, Albert Ayler-meets-Peter Brötzmann riffing and screaming, reed-splintering solos, Håker Flaten’s booming, thunderous (yet shockingly subtle) bass attack, and Nilssen-Love’s machine-gun, almost punk-rock drumming is one of the most potent sounds in jazz. There are and have always been plenty of muscular saxophonists in free jazz, from the aforementioned Ayler and Brötzmann to Archie Shepp, Charles Gayle, David S. Ware, and many more, but Gustafsson is that rare player who seems to have a genuine spiritual affinity for noisy rock as well, and his fellow Thing members share that raucous, nearly anarchic spirit.

    The group began as a tribute to trumpeter Don Cherry. Their self-titled debut album featured versions of six of his compositions—“Awake Nu,” “Mopti,” “Cherryco,” “Ode to Don,” “The Art of Steve Roney—Smilin’” and “Trans-Love Airways.” The follow-up, She Knows… (with McPhee), included their recording of the Cherry composition that gave the group its name, alongside versions of McPhee’s “Old Eyes,” Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny’s “Kathelin Gray,” Frank Lowe’s “For Real,” James “Blood” Ulmer’s “Baby Talk,” and PJ Harvey’s “To Bring You My Love.” The importation of rock tunes into the free jazz world continued on 2004’s Garage, which included their takes on the White Stripes’ “Aluminum,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Art Star,” and the Sonics’ “Have Love Will Travel,” while 2006’s aptly titled Action Jazz included an interpretation of noise-punk duo Lightning Bolt’s “Ride the Sky.”

    The latest Thing CD, The Cherry Thing (buy it from Amazon), is co-credited to vocalist Neneh Cherry, stepdaughter of Don, who had a hit single, “Buffalo Stance,” in 1988. On it, the quartet perform another of Don Cherry’s compositions—“Golden Heart,” one of the four themes that made up Side One of 1965’s Complete Communion. The lyrics Neneh Cherry sings may be hers, and new; they’re certainly not present in the original. The group also tackles “What Reason Could I Give?”, from Ornette Coleman; the Stooges’ “Dirt”; Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”; Madvillain’s “Accordion”; Martina Topley-Bird’s “Too Tough to Die”; and two new songs: the Gustafsson-penned “Sudden Moment” and “Cashback,” with lyrics by Cherry. Some tracks work, others don’t. “Dirt” has a terrific rumbling energy, Gustafsson’s baritone sax approximating Ron Asheton’s guitar quite well, but Cherry’s vocals lack the punch of Iggy Pop’s on the original. “Accordion,” originally a hip-hop track, becomes doggerel and nonsense when its lyrics are sung rather than rapped, and while the band manages to work up a decent groove, Gustafsson seems slightly lost. Ultimately, the biggest problem with The Cherry Thing is that in making room for their guest, the guys are forced to restrain themselves; consequently, the lung-busting, finger-fracturing energy of albums like Garage, Action Jazz and Bag It! is lost. You can’t confine Mats Gustafsson to a preordained solo spot in the middle of a song, making him play Lester Young to Cherry’s Billie Holiday. It’s fine that they’ve demonstrated the ability to hold back under certain circumstances. They haven’t answered the question of whether, or why, they should.

    A few months ago, The Thing released Metal!, a double live LP recorded in April 2011 in Lithuania, on the NoBusiness label. On this album, they’re joined by British bassist Barry Guy, known for working with saxophonist Evan Parker and guitarist Derek Bailey and being a member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, among many other projects. The first 10 of its 11 tracks blend together into a seamless, largely continuous performance, and all are named for rare metals. The last, obviously an encore, is a run through “Ride the Sky” that’s less than two minutes long.

    The combination of Guy’s background in European improv and The Thing’s more Americanized (despite their Scandinavian origins) approach to free jazz yields a compelling performance that’s unique in their discography. Both Guy and Håker Flaten seem to bow the strings of their instruments more often than they pluck them, and while Gustafsson is his usual obstreperous self, shrieking and roaring through extended solos, the rock-meets-free jazz bluster and intensely rhythmic phrasing that typically characterize his work is largely absent. He seems to be adopting the Euro-improv method of slowly feeling his way around, listening to whatever small cues his bandmates (the two bassists in particular) offer and responding in kind, suggesting potential paths but never truly leading. Nilssen-Love, for his part, is also quite restrained, never setting up a beat and only rarely (as on sections of “Neodymium” and “Europium”) erupting into anything solo-ish. Some tracks here, notably “Samarium” and “Dysprosium,” are practically silent. The only ones that come close to the sustained, vein-popping intensity one expects from The Thing are “Gadolinium,” a few passages of the set opener, “Lanthanum,” and the closing version of “Ride the Sky.”

    Like the album with Neneh Cherry, Metal! is The Thing proving they’re not one-trick ponies. But unlike The Cherry Thing, this side trip is enjoyable almost from beginning to end, and doesn’t make me feel like they’re sacrificing anything vital in order to appeal to listeners seeking easy pleasure. In fact, Metal! is one of The Thing’s most challenging albums, which is probably why it’s a vinyl-only release limited to 600 copies. Get one while you can.

  6. The Thing with Mats Gustafsson is that not everybody in the free music community likes his approach. When Stef reviewed some of his new albums two months ago, one of the comments added that he is just playing “loud and raucous”.

    Whether you are a fan or rather reluctant – listen to his new The Thing album. As usual the band is Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten on bass and Gustafsson on saxophones. For this record, which was recorded at St. Catherine’s Church in Vilnius, they are backed up by bass legend Barry Guy who has also played with Gustafsson in the marvelous Tarfala Trio. All pieces on “Metal” except the last one are named after metallic chemical elements, the cover shows a saw blade in the middle of all kind metallic trash. If the more timid of you fear the worst, “Lanthanum”, the opening track of the album, might prove you right. From the very first second everything is displayed like in an exposition of a play: the main motives, the protagonists, Nilssen-Love’s relentless drumming, the two basses struggling, intertwining, pouring fuel into the fire, the musicians cheering each other on and on top of all Gustafsson yelling and howling. Yes, there is sheer brutality – but there is also absolute beauty. The key track on the album is “Europium” where you can find everything the album is about in a nutshell. It begins with Gustafsson’s baritone ticking like a clock, slightly losing its regular rhythm. It takes over a minute before the basses join in and only then the saxophone starts to cry out in an almost bluesy approach anticipating something dark deep down under the surface. Only then, after a short conversation of the two basses underlined by Gustafsson playing almost lyrical notes, Nilssen-Love starts off chasing the saxophone on a first wild ride. There is a break in the middle of the track where Nilssen-Love plays a duet only on the hi-hat with Håker-Flaten who tunes down his bass to infernal depths – it’s the calm before the storm. And then all hell breaks loose, Gustafsson’s baritone is yowling in long deep shivery cries like an animal in fear of dying just to switch to fury from one moment to another as if being ready for a final attack.

    But in the end, it all calms down, the ride is over and there is nothing but sadness. At this moment Gustafsson plays a heartbreaking part accompanied by drone-like and scratching basses, here you can find consolation in beauty. The piece (and the whole album) wakes a hundred sleeping memories with free music and makes them ripe and vivid again, remembering especially Albert Ayler and Peter Broetzmann.

    The album closes with a cover version of Lightning Bolt’s “Ride the Sky”. It is shorter and less Punk/Metal than the original. But it is incredibly tense and organic due to the atmosphere the church provides. What a way to end an album.

    The album is released on double vinyl only and strictly limited. Don’t hesitate.

  7. A double LP called Metal! (No Business NBLP 47/48) has hit the streets and it’s a kicker. It’s a group called the Thing with guest bass master Barry Guy. In sum this is an all-star free-avant jazz lineup. Barry and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten handle the bass duties. They expertly, madly scrabble and scumble power arco and pizzicato lines in a kind of humming and thrumming hornet’s nest of fire and chaos. Mats Gustafsson hits the ground at a run on baritone, tenor and slide saxophone. Paal Nilssen-Love, perhaps the reigning king of manically slashing, metallically clattering free drums, gets a froth to combust spontaneously throughout.

    So you have four sides of wildly free music. Mats’ baritone is grainy, blasphemous to jazz order, his tenor is no less compacting and his slide sax slithers. The two-bass team are astoundingly brash. Paal gets very impolite.

    In short it’s all a manic, panic attacked contemporary world needs to portray itself the way it is now. In other words this one really kicks up its heels and says a healthy f.u. to all that might have wanted to replace it. It’s not getting replaced, people. This kind of music survives and thrives in the hands of these four demonic fellows. I mean that in the best way! Bass players beware. You are about to be smoked! Everybody else? Smoked. All are going to be smoked.

  8. The Thing is a long-standing Scandinavian free-jazz unit consisting of Mats Gustafsson on saxophones, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. On this album they hook up with the legendary British composer and bassist Barry Buy for a number of free-jazz blowouts and short vignettes. This album was recorded live at Saint Catherine’s Church in Vilnius, Lithuania on 3rd April, 2011. The opening track, “Lanthanum” is an epic in its own right, with scraping and clanging bass and drums inviting in strong resonant saxophone and more bass. Saxophone wails and drums thrash through storming free improvisation. The dynamics between the bassists is fascinating; one plucking, one bowing and all in service to the musical maelstrom. Improvising saxophone and bowed bass in the cavernous space of the church give the music a feel akin to Albert Ayler’s live performances. This particular performance unfolds slowly and almost suite-like, with parings and couplings of instruments coming together and splitting apart like so many atoms. Elastic bass and slapping drums heralds the conclusion that is raw and potent. After a couple of short interludes including a bass duet, the band comes together with “Neodymium” opening with popping saxophone and chain-rattling ghostly percussion, the group quickly takes flight with Gustafsson and Nilssen-Love leading the charge with some hair raising music, squaring off like two boxers in the ring slugging it out. There is a quiet interlude, like the eye of a hurricane which uses silence as a canvas to improvise upon, then everyone comes together for a conclusion of pupil-dilating noise. “Europhium” starts quietly with a loosely developing saxophone solo building over quiet percussion. High plucked bass and saxophone build a fascinating drone effect which develops tension in the piece. Nilssen-Love takes a pristine solo on cymbals before scorching saxophone and basses return to take the music into the stratosphere. This was a very well played and recorded performance. The Thing is a very malleable unit that can host practically any guest, and Guy is the perfect foil on this occasion.

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