Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Rare Thing

The Thing with Otomo Yoshihide
Shinjuku Crawl (Smalltown Superjazz, 2009)

Mats Gustafsson (sax; electronics)
Ingebrigt Haker Falten (bass)
Paal Nilssen-Love(drums)
Otomo Yoshihide (guitars)

Shinjuku Crawl must be some sort of secret document. For me at least. It's been extremely difficult to find. I finally gave in and downloaded it from iTunes. Not what I wanted to do with one of my favourite bands. This is always been a band that I want to hear on the physical disc or vinyl. But for some reason the physical version of Shinjuku Crawl is now unavailable and the only way to get it is on digital. I guess for now that's fine. Because either way my JazzWrap friends, this is a fantastic record.

Shinjuku Crawl is built on two beautiful suites, "Shinjuku Crawl I-III" and "Dori Dugout Parts I&II" along with the short but enchanting "Uramando". This is first time The Thing have sat with avant garde guitarist, Otomo Yoshihide all as on group. This session was originally recorded in 2007 which makes the wait for its actually release even more painful. They have worked together separately in various groups, most notably in Yoshihide's New Jazz Orchestra but Shinjuku Crawl is a whole different affair.

For me it feels like a combination of recent Gustafsson projects with Sonore and Fire! wielded together. There are moments quiet minimalism as "Shinjuku Crawl (First Attempt)" makes its slow build through with just gentle/slightly audible taps on the drums and phasing in and out of Otomo and Gustafsson instruments. I almost wanted to Genesis P. Oridgide to step up and start singing Persuasion (a classic Throbbing Gristle number). As we began to make into climax of the piece, the explosion of sound begins. Otomo seems the perfect accompaniment to The Things wall of sound. The group are taking you a deliberately long journey.

Then "Shinjuku Crawl (Second Attempt)" travels through the wonderful tribal elements of Nilssen-Love drumkit and dynamic work delivered by Falten and Gustafssson. Yoshihide is almost understated except for his lovely feedback drone that packs a solid punch to the listener on first impulse but eventually delivers you to a soft landing.

While the entire suite follows the standard tempo conventions of slow, moderately slow and very fast, The Thing and Otomo have slightly warped this thinking by utilizing within each suite. So what we are hearing is in the traditional sense--Adagio, Allegro Moderato/Prestissimo, Moderato/Prestissimo. Okay cutting to the chase its a journey through slow, fast, midtempo/frenetic, midtempo and fierce. In short, pure beauty. And that's really how you can wrap "Shinjuku Crawl (Third Attempt)" with blistering variations you will most certainly been amazed by the pace and movement. Great stuff.

The calm of "Uramando" explores the atmospheric side of Yoshihide playing as it is paired with a more reserved backing from The Thing. Not so much an interlude as moment of reflected and watching where we go next.

And next is our denouement, "Dori Dugout" which the quartet drills further into the center of our cerebral cortex with some magnificent playing by Nilssen-Love and enigmatic dexterity from Gustafsson. This is brilliant piece which each member is performing and bombastic pace but the recording levels must be set up differently because eventually Gustafsson takes over the piece with the rest of group blistering away underneath. This is sound that you achieve only with a select group of musicians and The Thing are one of those select groups. Otomo Yoshihide matches this perfection with delicate beauty.

Shinjuku Crawl is now either out of print or unavailable in CD/Vinyl form but I highly advise my free jazz friends to download this (legally) from iTunes or Amazon. It is buried treasure that hopefully we'll see back in circulation sooner rather later. Highly Recommended.

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