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Five New From Konvoj Records

Mark Corroto By

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If you are a free jazz fanatic, you probably look for those out-of-print vinyl offerings from labels like Hat Hut, FMP, Sonet, and El Saturn Records. Sadly, you would have to be either independently wealthy or Mats Gustafsson to acquire the rarest of the rare music. But take heart, there are small labels producing the free jazz scarce finds of the future. One such label is Ola Paulson's Konvoj Records from Sweden. He has assembled a small, but growing and impressive catalogue of music. Most of the music is available as CDs and downloads, so unheard won't be the issue in the future, but if you are a true believer, the packaging and product are so very important. Konvoj Records creates some beautiful graphics to accompany their music.

Gush
The March
Konvoj Records
2016

On the occasion of the free improvising trio Gush's twenty-fifth anniversary in 2013, this disc commemorates a concert performance in Malmö, Sweden. Yes, 25 years. Amazing. Notwithstanding the fact that each of the trio's members, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, pianist Sten Sandell, and drummer Raymond Strid have created successful careers in jazz, free jazz, and free improvisational realms, this reunion is a welcome event in Swedish music.

This disc, their eighth (and good luck hunting for the older, out-of-print discs), is their first since the 2005 releases Norrkoping (Atavistic) and Electric Eel (Qbico).

Of course, most listeners would be familiar with the ubiquitous spirit that is Mats Gustafsson. His travels and collaborations are many, including the Fire! Orchestra, The Thing, his work with Thurston Moore, Peter Brötzmann, Barry Guy, Merzbow, Paal Nilssen-Love, Agusti Fernandez, and on and on and on. Sticking a bit closer to home are Sandell and Strid. That said, you can find them collaborating with Ken Vandermark, Per Zanussi, and Fire! Orchestra. Sandell leads an innovative piano trio (with Nilssen-Love and Johan Berthling) and is a partner with players like Evan Parker and Lotte Anker. Strid's percussion explorations have graced the ensembles of Barry Guy, Marilyn Crispell, Martin Küchen's Trespass Trio, and The Electrics.

The three tracks here trade-in noise for mostly introspection. A sort of return-to-roots meditation. Rare it is these days for Gustafsson to de-emphasize his Peter Brötzmann inheritance of sound. Here he does. The three tracks range from the long to the brief, 30 minutes, 17-minutes, and 5 minutes in length. Patience is the order of the day; each piece an exercise in group dynamics, an expansion and contraction conversation. It's a pleasure to hear Gustafsson on soprano saxophone. The sound engages quite well with Sandell's free playing, which moves between a kind of chamber sound to bustling dance. Strid's drums and percussion are more conversational than they are time-keeping. He accentuates everything Strid and Gustafsson consider, and emphasizes that free jazz can have as much authority as composed music.

HALStER
Mindfulness
Konvoj Records
2016

To my knowledge, Derek Bailey never made a multi-overdubbed recording of himself. If he had, there's a good chance it would sound like Mindfulness by the three guitar improvising trio HALStER. It's not that the trio of Anders Lindsjö, Adam Persson and Mattias Nihlén imitate Bailey. It's just that his very distinctive approach comes easily to mind on this, their first release.

Three like minds? No, just three minds that like creating new sounds. Lindsjö is probably the best known of the trio, recording with Mats Gustafsson, Lotte Anker, and Philipp Wachsmann. The music here, is detailed nicely, separating two guitars right channel/left channel and in the center a third player supplies texture.

The music often sounds as if subatomic particles are colliding in the vacuum of space. Their language is the mechanical, intelligent life, ghost-in-the-machine type. Communicating by way of bolts of energy and passing satellites. When things get noisy, like "minst bland drumlar," and " ful röst," the trio expands into Otomo Yoshihide's world of sound, or maybe the Japanese Hendrix. The final track "rättigenom himlakroppar; eller, tankarnas rosa kista" ehich, which Mr. Google tells me translates into "right through the celestial bodies; or, tanks pink coffin," is a blues. Well, maybe the closest the trio comes to a blues. Let's call it a "free blues." It's messy, frantic, distressed, feverish, and ultimately a lovely beatdown.

Liudas Mockünas/Jakob Riis
Uncertain Statistics
Konvoj Records
2016

There was an American television series, a rather silly one, in the 1980s called The A-Team, in which a cast of wrongly accused misfits always prevailed. No surprise there. They had a tag line, "I love it when a plan comes together," in just about every episode that comes to mind with this recording by Liudas Mockūnas and Jakob Riis.

The pair's Uncertain Statistics conjures the tag line, "I love it when something unplanned comes together." This meeting between the Lithuanian saxophonist Mockünas, who doubles on clarinet, and the Danish laptop and electronics artist Riis, traffics in the intersection of surprise and soundscapes. In other words, pure free improvisation.

Mockünas has been a key collaborator with William Hooker, Barry Guy, Marc Ducret, Stephan Pasborg, and in the Konvoj Ensemble with Evan Parker, Sten Sandell and Riis. Riis' electro-acoustic music and noise intersect with players like Mats Gustafsson, Lotte Anker (see review below), and Raymond Strid. Their collaboration here is four tracks—three brief excursions and one, "Method Of Moments," that clocks in at nearly 30 minutes. This free opus, perambulates from a desolate electric landscape painted by a clarinet song, to the song of birds in a hurricane of noise, some tenor burnt sugar, and an eventual resolution of metal rumblings.

Mockünas and Riis create a soundtrack to both the scariest and most beautiful silent movie one could create in one's head.

The highlight here might be the final track. "Domain Experts" turns Mockünas' saxophone into a machine, with breath substituting for blown notes and the mechanical sounds of the instrument the engine for Riis' sonic manipulations. The piece concludes with the saxophonist's overblown tones and extended techniques looped and massaged into a mini-opera.

Konvoj Ensemble
Mira
Konvoj Records
2016

"Mira," it is explained in the liner notes, is an interactive and graphic score written by label chief and saxophonist Ola Paulson and laptop and electronic artist Jakob Riis. It is, in seven movements, an impressive work of orchestrated improvisations. A term, in this instance, that is not an oxymoron.



The core of the Konvoj Ensemble is Paulson, Riis, saxophonists Lotte Anker and Liudas Mockünas, and percussionist Anders Uddeskog. They are once again supplemented by saxophonist Evan Parker and pianist Sten Sandell. Both also joined the ensemble for the previous disc Colors Of (Konvoj Records, 2013).

Initial impressions flow toward Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensembles, with extended technique instruments meshing with realtime processing. But where this ensemble diverges is in its partitioning of sounds. Where Parker's larger works tend towards the palatial, these are more unassuming. Paulson and Riis have constructed a score with plenty of headroom and space for each instrument to me individually heard. The pleasure is in identifying the voices of say, Anker, Parker, or Mockünas' saxophone. Sure things might get noisy, like the opening of "Speak Out," but things settle into those individual voices and the meld of two or three at once. This is a most satisfying experience.

Bomb
The Subject
Konvoj Records
2016

The greatest compliment you can pay a band like Bomb is that they are a bunch of punks. Bloody punks. In rock-n-roll terms, that means they have attitude and no skills, but in the jazz world they are obliged to have both. This trio of saxophonist Ola Paulson, bassist Anders Lindsjö, and drummer Anders Uddeskog is the Swedish equivalent to Mooko, a trio with Akira Sakata, Bill Laswell, and Ronald Shannon Jackson or maybe even Full Blast Marino Pliakas, and Michael Wertmüller.

It is a good idea, every so often to tear apart the ramparts and blow the carbon out of your engines. Bomb opens The Subject with a detonation of sound. Paulson's alto fires an astringent shower of acrid notes over the corpulent electric bass notes of Lindsjö and the busied drumming of Uddeskog. The trio's pace eases into a more introspective mood later in the song, but the lacerations have been made and the listener is prepared for what's to come.

Like Joe Morris, Lindsjö, mostly known for his guitar work, takes up the bass to great effect. He delivers monster bubbling and thunderous licks that allow his compatriots to explore the outer edges. Uddeskog and Paulson, both adept at the more reserved improvising as members of the Konvoj Ensemble, are determined to maintain the pugnacious themes here. Bomb balance the screech and skronk with some placid passages, because, well, they're not animals. Not yet.

Tracks and Personnel

The March

Tracks: Barely An Instant Before The March; Seated In His Tiny Cage.

Personnel: Mats Gustafsson: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Sten Sandell: piano, voice; Raymond Strid: drums, cymbals, percussion.

Mindfulness

Tracks: jag är ett bröd; inför en borgerlig eftermiddag; minst bland drumlar; envist väntar mitten; du finns och du uppträder; (nej, jag uppträder); titeln löser upp geniet; ful röst; rättigenom himlakroppar; eller, tankarnas rosa kista.

Personnel: Adam Persson: electric guitar; Anders Lindsjö: electric guitar; Mattias Nihlén: electric guitar.

Uncertain Statistics

Tracks: Experimental Date; Method Of Moments; Unknown Parameters; Domain Experts.

Personnel: Liudas Mockunas: saxophones, clarinets; Jakob Riis: laptop, mixing board feedback.

Mira

Tracks: Prelude/Hommage To O Ceti; Speak Out, Oh Ye Red Giant; In The Belly Of The Whale -3 Days And 3 Nights; A Part Of Miranda; Postlude/Hauers Treasure.

Personnel: Lotte Anker: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Ola Paulson: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; Liudas Mockünas: clarinet, bass clarinet; Sten Sandell: grand piano, voice; Jakob Riis: computer, real time processing; Anders Uddeskog: drums, percussion.

The Subject

Tracks: The Moral; The Representation; The Science; The Relevance; The Monochrome; The Vitality; The Discursive; The Method; The Object.

Personnel: Ola Paulson: alto saxophone; Anders Lindsjö: electric bass guitar; Anders Uddeskog: drums, percussion.

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