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Balls veritably screams Sixties-style counter-culture confrontationalism. Check Bennink's gaunt pale frame, shirtless and head shaven close, standing sternly with his mates on the front cover. Or Brötzmann's hunched visage on the reverse, tenor clutched tightly in vice-grip, caught in mid-renal shout. Then there's Van Hove, sleeves rolled up, bent over the innards of his piano, almost certainly up to some sort of nefarious deconstructionist doings. These three guys meant business when it came to disrupting the status quo, and they weren't about to let the conventions of jazz, or any music for that matter, stand in the way of their systematic demolition of preconceptions. Images offer indications, but the irrefutable proof is in the full bore, chest rattling sounds that arise out of the trio's unison action, sounds that seem to tauntingly invite the expletive of the disc's title. It may not be pretty or pastoral, but it certainly makes for a thrilling ride.
The title cut starts out surprisingly diffuse with plinking piano keys, scraping metallics and clattering sticks on tautly tuned drum skins. The German announces his presence with a single strident bleat before retreating to the shadows as his partners continue their junkyard machinations. Suddenly he's back, blowing coarsely braided staccato lines above Van Hove's vaguely cocktail lounge chords. A rise of ferrous static suggests an aural indication of Bennink's flailing limbs. It's difficult to discern the specifics of Bennink's kit in the slideshow of photos that adorns the sleeve booklet, but it must have been quite an assemblage of percussive noisemakers. Brötzmann sets in motion a spiraling fountain of notes that erupts in Pollack-like textures. The drummer soon joins him, channeling breath through gachi, presumably some sort of wind instrument. Surprising snatches of near silence and sympathetic use of dynamic space pockmark the remainder of the piece and guide the players through sensitive ebb and flow. Van Hove quite often acts as kind of a fulcrum of reason between his partners, tempering their belligerence, but shirking the role of shrinking violet in the process. Two bonus tracks swell the duration of the original vinyl album (which first appeared as the second release on the German FMP label) to just shy of an hour. Both continue along the same thread as their predecessors and round out this welcome time capsule from the musician's youthful years in superlative fashion.
Track Listing: Balls/ Garten/ Filet Americain/ De Daag Waarop Sipke Eindelijk Zijn
Nagels Knipte, En Verder Alle Andere A Moten Voor Hem Openstonden
I.C.P. 17/ Untitled 1/ Untitled 2.
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann- tenor saxophone; Fred Van Hove- piano; Han Bennink-
drums, gachi, shell, voice. Recorded: August 17, 1970, Berlin.