Improvised Company is a new label created by Kouichi Ohshima to bring to light past recordings by legendary German improviser Peter Brötzmann. Ohshima's affection for Brötzmann's music is apparent not only in this beautifully rendered release, which features an exquisite hand-printed silk-screen cover; but also in a recent book he's published documenting the German's expansive discography. Future plans for the label include the release of other unissued recordings.
The audio fidelity on the label's inaugural effort takes a little getting used to. Sonic separation between the instruments is fine, but the recording sounds as if it was taped on a single microphone. If anything though the grainy texture adds to the emotive immediacy and unadorned grist of the music. Brötzmann, who is highly renowned for his gargantuan stores of reed-splintering breath, is at his most dangerous and unpredictable under such stripped down conditions. Just reference his indispensable Machine Gun on FMP, which has a similarly spotty clarity for more of the same kind of balls-out, go-for-broke, exploding horn histrionics that are on continuous display here.
From the start Sabu pulverizes his drum kit with relentless, ear-sapping strength. His militant press-rolls shower sonic sparks on a silent audience most likely transfixed by what they're hearing while Brötzmann maintains a warbly wail above the din. The saxophonist dives into an Ayleresque dirge before tearing the mouthpiece from his clenched teeth and laying out. Sabu alternates between lumbering sparseness, creaking cymbals and rhythmic typhoon gusts. Tsunami sound waves roll off his snares drenching the audience in a deluge of carefully focused noise. Brötzmann eventually reenters on querulous baritone bleating and filibustering with brow-scrunching, cheek bursting power. He empties his lungs as choppy linear lines project from his horn splattering viscous splashes of angry color. The visual image of his florid face framed by bushy handlebar mustache and beard bent into his reed, puckering with virulent release, is inescapable. In such instances he is the conduit for the pugilistic spirit of saxophone in its most primal guise.
Midway through the first piece Sabu's press rolls set the stage again with brittle cymbal breaks goading Brötzmann to ever-increasing peaks of upper-register truculence. He pounds his skins in a tribal vamp accented by gongs and strident rimshots. Then it's Brötzmann on tarogato carving a fractured dervish lament atop a bed of prickly metallic cymbal-fire. Taking the audience in his sights he peppers them with a strafing succession of multiphonics before abrupt applause denotes the first part's end. Part 2 opens with a drum invocation by Sabu. Brötzmann's baritone sallies forth bleeding dour foghorn blasts amongst brooding melodic lines, which hint strangely at strains from Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" prior to a full-bore descent into howling discord. The piece continues with another percussive tour-de-force from Sabu before its inexorable culmination.
Minor audio quibbles aside this disc captures Brötzmann and Sabu at a height of shared improvisatory expression. Considering that very little is currently available from Brötzmann's career in the 1980s (a string of fruitful FMPs from the period are all out of circulation) the importance of this release impossible to understate. Limited to an edition of 350 copies it won't be around for long. Those with even a passing interest in the German's obstinate art are strongly advised to secure their copy now.