Blood, Sweat, Drum + Bass: Asa Nisi Masa

Ian Patterson By

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Big bands don't come much bigger than Denmark's Blood, Sweat, Drum 'n Bass: 27 musicians, including a fourteeen-piece horn section, a nine-piece rhythm section, electric guitars, two vocalists and electronics. BSDnB purveys a brand of music which shares the iconoclastic approach and raw energy of Spanish saxophonist Llibert Fortuny Electric's Electric Big Band, Belgian big band Flat Earth Society and the modernistic bent of Norwegian band Jaga Jazzist. The influence of the latter is felt on Asi Nisi Asa, through the participation of Jaga Jazzist founding member Jørgen Munkeby, who contributes four compositions to the set.

The opening "Red Rum," which flows seamlessly into the title track, comes barreling out like a tornado. There is no escape from raucous brass, pummeling drums and Munkeby's heavy riffing guitar, inspired perhaps by his Norwegian "black jazz" group, Shining. The all-enveloping collective voice all but drowns out the vocals but is captivating in a brutally powerful way.

The Björk-inspired "Stay on the Surface" provides an album highlight: Gunhild Overegseth's dreamy voice is lifted by warm brass, subtle percussion and a dash of electronic snap and crackle on a beautiful song which would brighten up the rather staid commercial airwaves. The undercurrent of electronica comes from new member Sofus Forsberg, and underlines the contemporary identity of BSDnB, for whom mainstream 20th century big band jazz may as well have never existed. Forsberg's two electronic-based compositions are given a big band facelift by Jens Christian "Chappe" Jensen's imaginative arrangements: "No Beat" occupies a time and space somewhere between Sun Ra and Joe Zawinul, with a heavy rock underbelly; and the pulsating drum 'n' bass of "Everything is Good" features layers of shimmering brass, and ethereal, wordless vocals reminiscent of Swedish/Finnish electronic folk-rock band Hedningarna.

The full force of this giant ensemble is unleashed on "Lay Back," with Turid Guldin singing of consumer gluttony, and featuring Jacob Danielesen's spiky, tumbling tenor saxophone solo. Alto saxophonist Julie Kjaer's and baritone saxophonist Mette Rasmussen weave a primal, free-jazz course on the intro to "You've Got a Cold," a pop-ish vocal number with synth-layered drum 'n' bass, nicely buoyed by layers of spiraling brass. Guldin also sings on the moody "Numb & Down," where the ensemble plays a quietly supportive role. In spite of the artillery at his disposal, Jensen's arrangements employ space, lull and occasional chill-out ambience, contrasting with the sonic barrage of the band at full throttle. Even in the midst of Munkeby's powerful jazz-rock/progressive "The Smoking Dog," there is pause for a music-box piano motif. The industrial swagger and racing pace of Munkeby's "Stalemate Longan" Runner" boasts riffing trumpets and a heavy rock rhythm, but gradually subsides, giving way to a peaceful coda.

This is a hugely enjoyable recording full of visceral power, verve and no shortage of soul. It marks BSDnB as an original contemporary voice with an utterly progressive approach to making music. How BSDnB rehearse—or where it get gigs—is anybody's guess, but any promoter with a fat wallet and 27 chairs shouldn't think twice.

Track Listing: RedRum; Asa Nisi Masa; Stay on the Surface; Lay Back; No Beat; The Smoking Dog; Numb & Down; You've Got a Cold; Everything is Good; Stalemate Longan Runner.

Personnel: Jens Christian "Chappe" Jensen: arranger, conductor, additional reeds; Jørgen Munkeby: electric guitar, tenor saxophone, EWI; Gunhild Overegseth, Turid Guldin: vocals; Sofus Forsberg: electronics; Ole Visby: reeds; Julie Kjaer: reeds; Nikolaj Schneider: reeds; Jakob Danielesen: reeds; Harald Langasdalen: reeds; Mette Rasmussen: reeds; Soren "Phille" Baerbak: trumpet; Bent Hjort: trumpet; Rene Damsbak: trumpet; Hans Christian Ilskov Erbs: trumpet; Jens Overby: trombone; Jens Kristian Bang: trombone; Kirstine Kjaerulff Raun: trombone; Anders Ostergaard Frandsen: trombone; Kasper Falkenberg: guitars; Kasper Bjerg, Aske Bode: keyboards; Sisse "Moster Phonque" Foged Hyllested: bass, pedal steel guitar; Rune Werner Christensen: bass; Espen Laub von Lillienskjold: drums and percussion; Jais Poulsen: drums and percussion; Magnus Lindguard Jochumusen: drums and percussion.

Title: Asa Nisi Masa | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Calibrated


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