|Mats Gustafsson brings the same ferocity to electronics
that he brings to the baritone sax
FIRE! (Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werliin)
(Cafe OTO. 21 February 2018. Review and phone-snaps by AJ Dehany)
Swedish baritone sax master Mats Gustafsson does not fuck about. Two thirds of the way through an intense one-hour set with his bruising power trio FIRE! he makes a short speech that mirrors the way the music works, deconstructing the platitudinous niceties of ordinary stage banter that none of us at Cafe OTO want to hear nor he to utter.
“Thank you very much, it is actually great to be back here. Fucked up. We have a new record and blah blah blah blah *commercial break* t-shirts, stickers. There’s beers at the bar, there’s malts at the bar….” He pauses, and resumes. “It’s a difficult world we’re living in *philosophical break* Shitloads of merch over there, some music over here. We played one, two, three, four pieces from The Hands, and the titles are… way too complicated for us to remember… but we know that one of them is actually named The Hands so that’s easy. We will play *bom bom bom* two more songs, maybe, let’s see, and then we’ll fuck off.”
This is music that does not care to give you the familiar crutches and reassuring elements that music crrrrritics would demand and musicians would try to tick off one item at a time. Harmonic interest, complexity, variation, melody, structure, depth, I don’t know, whatever. It has all these in varying degrees but in an integrated way that refuses to tick them off just to prove it’s good. It doesn’t give a shit if you think it’s good or not.
This is actually a hallmark of respect. They don’t care to patronise you or the music. Short bruising basslines from Johan Berthling cycle round, drilling into your brain. This is the deep core of the music around which explosions ricochet in a dark, harsh landscape, an urban punk industrial jazz sound sculpture that shimmers like petrol. Gustafsson’s table of electronic circuit breakers and pedals is deployed with ear-splitting ferocity. At Cafe OTO, the trio played one intense 60-minute set with material from The Hands, its sixth album of bruising unclassifiable music or anti-music. You don’t know whether to call these radically deconstructed assemblages compositions, pieces, jams, improvisations, workouts, bouts. Bouts is good. Mats Gustafsson’s physical engagement with the baritone sax makes you think of wrestling, seriously.
The impact of Andreas Werliin’s surprisingly dynamic playing across the kit is heightened by putting it through an echo pedal: the kick drum punches hard, the cymbals needle out of the sound. The mainstay of the group is the fierce heavyweight baritone sax playing of Mats Gustafsson, who tore through three reeds during the set. His playing has a visceral rhythmic physicality just in the thickness of the sound coming out of the horn, but it’s also intensely creative and responsive to the underregarded subtleties of the trio’s dynamic, always shifting and searching out new sources of energy and excitement.
AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk
|Andreas Werliin, Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling|
LINK: The Hands on video
Upp o ner