Now that all the born-again Christians have left the room, his evil majesty's real followers can step forward. The trio known as Big Satan consists of three noisy improvisers: alto saxophonist Tim Berne, guitarist Marc Ducret, and drummer Tom Rainey. The names will be familiar to listeners as three quarters of Berne's Science Friction band. Berne is the biggest name draw in that group, but this is a "purely collaborative band with no set leader," so expect a certain amount of shared elbow grease and restless insanity.
The more I listen to Tim Berne's music (and having been fortunate to see him perform live) the more it feels rough around the edges. Nobody's going to sand this bad boy down, and don't you even think of calling him soft. Ever. The pent-up restlessness comes through in long intertwined lines, bunched up in weird rhythmic patterns that lead forward without specifying all the steps along the way.
The reason Souls Saved Hear works is that the partnership of so-called equals fits well. Marc Ducret is a head-banger of great magnitude, half punk rocker and half mad scientist. His guitar playing here is sharp and focused, and that's the zone where he needs to be to make use of his connections between the melody (angular, played by Berne, to the extent anyone really makes you hum along) and the rhythm (there is, after all, a drummer in the band). Speaking of which, Tom Rainey is very melodic for a stick wielder, playing themes that effectively straddle his other two partners'.
There's an edgy intellectual quality about a lot of this music. It's far from obvious on cursory glance that so much would be going on improvisationally, but take it from someone who listened casually and then seriously, three very articulate and exact voices are conversing here. But not without soul.
Whether or not you're in the mood for some noise, here's 48 minutes of music you can't play while your mom is around. Or your Sunday school teacher either. Their loss, really, but don't go testing them.
( Souls Saved Hear contains a bonus Quick Time video of "Plantain Surgery," remixed by David Torn, with yes, a banana under the knife. And more.)
Personnel: Big Satan is Tim Berne: alto saxophone, Marc Ducret: guitar and Tom Rainey: drums. Produced by David
Torn. Recorded June 9-10, 2004.