Something of a boon for Brötzophiles, the Unheard Music Series has reissued no less than a half dozen slices of his early oeuvre since its inception. A large chunk of the material dates from the German reed-splitter's Machine Gun
phase when his anti-establishment urges found their zenith in that anti-establishment musical milestone for FMP. The contemporaneous Nipples
was another shrapnel-laden pie in the face, and this new collection unearths even more music from that seminal session. An alternate take of the title track for full sextet joins two quartet pieces sans Bailey and Evan Parker.
The fidelity is surprisingly lucid and Derek Bailey is far better served than on the original album, his swollen then shrinking strings scrabbling against Bennink's raffish percussion textures. Buschi Niebergall adds flurries of turgid plucks between the twining barrages, later turning to scything bow. Fred Van Hove's entrance is unusually understated with short staccato clusters banking against the gritty harmonic dust cloud kicked up by his colleagues. Parker's tenor arrives a bit back in the mix, eclipsed a shade by Neibergall's relentless string sawing, but soon his spiraling bird-like ribbons find a nest in Bailey's blistering fretted counterpoint.
Brötzmann finally steps from the shadows just shy of the ten-minute mark, blowing terse spouts against the tumbling rhythmic backdrop. Van Hove, agitated by the renal saxophone shrieks, is goaded into a flurry of stabbing runs up and down his ivories as the leader lets loose with a barrage of blunt, anvil-hammered tones. The end comes swiftly and surprisingly abruptly after stoutly structured solo from Neibergall that contrasts cogently with the earlier faux anarchy.
Fronting the core quartet on "Fiddle Faddle," Brötzmann sounds equally combative. The piece opens with Bennink in a rarely restrained mode, jockeying from cymbals to what sounds like struck hollow plastic. Chewing off thick tonal chunks through his reed, the saxophonist suddenly swoops into a series of sharply ascending squeals. Van Hove carves out a jagged counterpoint behind him as Neibergall claws at his strings, snapping and plucking with a single-minded vigor and creating quite a racket. Brötzmann abandons ship mid-piece, leaving his partners to hash thing out in an intense melee of colliding sounds. Returning from the ether minutes later, his whistling, teeth-clenched wails sound even more emphatic, particularly in the midst of a brief spate where the rest of the band lays out.
"Fat Man Walks," dedicated to author/painter Robert Wolfgang Schnell, registers slightly lower on the Richter scale. Opening with a downright lyrical if somewhat rickety melodic head, it's an anomaly to be sure. Brötzmann's sandpaper tone puts the sharp teeth back in and it's exciting to hear his coarse tenor exclamations cavort with such optimistic surroundings. Suddenly the bottom drops out and it's back to inveterate roaring for much of the remainder.
In sum, More Nipples is far more than a cache of cast offs. Based on what's already been liberated from the FMP vaults, and UMS curator John Corbett's abiding affection for Brötzmann's music, there's almost certainly more in store from the German's salad years. I, for one, can't wait for future archival editions.