Together they make two-thirds of the Scandinavian creative music trio The Thing (with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten). Apart they both have established careers in adventurous jazz making. Percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love is a member of Ken Vandermark’s School Days and Raoul Björkenheim’s Scorch Trio and Mats Gustafsson has ascended to the throne of free-jazz saxophone royalty with the likes of Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker.
Gustafsson realized his musical vision in bands from Gush and the AALY Trio to collaborations with Barry Guy, Ken Vandermark, Thurston Moore, and Peter Brötzmann’s Tentet. His fire-breathing saxophone is only one weapon in his arsenal. He has also been known to play the fluteophone, flute, and other strange and homemade horns.
The thirty-three minutes heard here can be considered a Dean Benedetti recording, where only solos by these two have been extracted from their ongoing group efforts. The seven tracks have the feel as if they have been lifted from some ongoing conversation (or song). It’s easy to imagine some larger ensemble sitting out as these two go about making music together.
Gustafsson sticks to baritone sax throughout, coaxing vocalized tones and effects from his oversized horn. After the energized opener, the band settles into quieter exchanges, Nilssen-Love favoring a talking drum without the big beat. “Lightning Bug” is a conversation, Mats talking through his horn and Paal replying. They carry on into Gustafsson’s boat horn blasts.
The music here is purposely directed to be an exploration into new sounds and ideas. With a television playing in the background as the two play “Snarkus Brutal,” they pause as if to giggle at the snoring actor. Fans of Gustafsson’s extended techniques including slap tongue, flutter, and vocalization will offer many revelations, and Nilssen-Love is a perfect foil for Mats’ sounds.