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Tom Chant / John Edwards / Eddie Prevost: All Change (Matchless)

Recorded in concert at The Network Theatre, Waterloo in London, 2012, the trio of Tom Chant on saxophone, John Edwards on bass and Eddie Prevost on drums present a tour de force of modern free jazz with great technical and conversational power. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / John Butcher: The Natural Order (Northern Spy)

This album documents guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist John Butcher's first head-to-head encounter in a recording studio, two titans of their instruments playing without overdubs in a single session for remarkable creative and sonic results. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Frode Gjerstad Quartet: Silver Cornet (NESSA)

The last stop on the North American tour of The Bradford/Gjerstad Quartet (Bobby Bradford-cornet; Frode Gjerstad-alto sax & clarinet; Ingetbrigt Haker Flaten-bass; Frank Rosaly-drums), bridging generations through tremendous free improvisation. ... Click to View


John Zorn: Transmigration Of The Magus (Tzadik)

Inspired by the Gnostic philosophies of the Nag Hammadi library, Zorn invokes the mystical journey of the soul through the bardo as a tribute to the passing of Lou Reed, presented by his Gnostic Trio of Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, and Carol Emanuel, plus guests. ... Click to View


Wollesen / Haffner / Naujo: Rasa Rasa (Tzadik)

Rasa Rasa members Kenny Wollesen, Dalius Naujo, Jonathon Haffner and Sean Francis Conway present the ancient polyphonic vocal music of Lithuania using a mix of ensembles, reviving the infectious grooves and ancient vocal rounds, aided by new instruments devised by Wollesen. ... Click to View


Thomas Carnacki / Vulcanus 68: Split [VINYL] (Alethiometer / Gigante)

A split LP from two Bay area electronic composers inspired by the masters of tape and electronic music: Vulcanus 68 in a nostalgic rendering of spliced and collaged tape techniques; and Thomas Carnacki in an engaging collage of identifiable or sinister sound. ... Click to View


Kevin Drumm / Jason Lescalleet: The Abyss (erstwhile)

Sound and noise artists Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet collaborate on this 2 CD set, a diverse set of sound pieces from slowly building drones to unsettling environments, with tapes punctuating the hallucinatory aspects of their rich and impressive aural tapestries. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey / Radu Malfatti: II (erstwhile)

Two works, one each from trombonist Radu Malfatti and clarinetist Jurg Frey, also credited with "instruments", field recordings and couterpoints, electroacoustic reductionist work of beautiful character that unfolds slowly and rewards attentive listeners in morphing sound. ... Click to View


Michael Pisaro: Continuum Unbound [3 CD Box Set] (Gravity Wave)

Three large works in a solid box with a 12 page color booklet of notes and images from composer Pisaro, working with Greg Stuart, Joe Panzner, Patrick Farmer and Toshiya Tsunoda, examining fragile discontinuities in the apparently continuous sound world. ... Click to View


Gen Ken & AMK: Smile [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A collaboration of NYC sound artist Gen Ken Montgomery (Generator) and West Coast sound improviser AMK (Anthony Michael King), in an extended work of electronic improvisation presented over two cassette sides, a varied program that never overloads its listeners. ... Click to View


Chop Shop: Grey Area [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Grey is the color of these murky recordings from Scott Konzelmann, AKA Chop Shop, sounding like they were recorded inside a furnace with distant punctuation occasionally contributing to the gloom of this oppressive audio environment. ... Click to View


John Hudak: Listening To The Wind [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

John Hudak created "listening to the wind" using wind chimes, half of a phone conversation, and digital manipulation, splitting the work into an "inner" and "outer" side, altering the character of this murky emission. ... Click to View


Duncan Harrison / Dylan Nyoukis: The Many Great Necked / Jeer Sabbath [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

A split cassette, the first side presenting two live sets of vocals and tapes from Duncan Harrison; the second presenting Jeer Sabbath on vocals, tapes, trumpets, piano, clarinet, guitar, violin & other assorted instruments; both recording in the UK and reworking at Wino Lodge. ... Click to View


WHO Trio (Hemingway / Wintsch / Oester): Zoo [2 CDS] (Auricle)

Percussionist Gerry Hemingway's Who Trio with Michel Wintsch on piano and synth, and Banz Oester on double bass and lamp, in an outstanding 2 CD release contrasting their work in acoustic improvisation with "electric" improv, albeit an unusual take on the latter. ... Click to View


Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet (Hawkins / Edwards / Yarde): 4 Blokes (Ogun)

Blue Notes drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo's quartet with three of London's finest improvisers--Jason Yarde on sax, John Edwards on bass, and Alexander Hawkins on piano--in live studio recordings of exciting and impressive structured free improv. ... Click to View


Steve Lacy Four: Morning Joy ...Paris Live [reissue] (Hatology)

One night at the Paris Sunset Club by saxophonist Steve Lacy's Quartet with Steve Potts on sax, Jean-Jacques Avenel on bass and Oliver Johnson on drums, performing an exuberant mix of Lacy originals and Thelonius Monk tunes, remastered & expanded for Hat's 40th Anniversary. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee: As Serious As Your Life [reissue] (Hatology)

In 1996, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Joe McPhee's first solo release, McPhee recorded this remarkable album of solo reeds, pocket cornet, and electronics, using overdubbing to create gripping music including an homage to Miles Davis and unique versions of standards. ... Click to View


Chistopher Fox: Works For Piano, Philip Thomas piano (Hat [now] ART)

Four large and distinctive works by composer Christopher Fox performed by pianist Philip Thomas, who also writes the liner notes about the works, revealing and explaining the compositional elements, piano preparations, and physical requirements placed on the performer. ... Click to View


Stockhausen / Beethoven (Pi-hsien Chen): Klavierstucke/Sonaten (Hat [now] ART)

Alternating between Stockhausen and Beethoven, pianist Pi-Hsien Chen performs solo works including "Klavierstuck", "Sonata A-Dur Op. 101" and "Sonata C-moll Op. 111", contrasting and comparing the innovations of both composers. ... Click to View


Lacerda / Manso / Nilssen-Love / Zenicola: Bota Fogo (Bocian Records 2014/QTV/PNL)

A live recording of two extended improvisations at Audio Rebel's Quintavant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from the quartet of Arthur Lacerda on guitar and electronics, electric bassist Felipe Zenicola, guitarist Eduardo Manso, and drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love. ... Click to View


Michel Doneda : Everybody Digs Michel Doneda (Relative Pitch)

A collection of solo pieces from forward-thinking French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda, using extended techniques and utilizing every inch of the horn, creating unconventional and captivating sonic expressions from the instrument. ... Click to View


Lee Noyes: Truth In Opposition [CASSETTE] (Banned Productions)

Sound artist Lee Noyes based this improvised laptop work on the 1776 work by James Beattie, "Essays: On the nature of truth, in opposition to Sopfifstry and Sceptifism", arguing that both consonance and dissonance are equally important to the perfection of harmony. ... Click to View


Trevor Watts: Veracity (FMR)

Pure Trevor Watts performing solo on the alto saxophone, showing his lyrical and technical skills in full force through 13 studio recordings, from succinct tracks of a minute in length to longer displays of powerful playing with great skill and ingenuity. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Philip Gibbs / Neil Metcalfe: The Ravens Look (FMR)

Paul Dunmall performs on soprano sax along with clarinets and contra bassoon, in a give and take album with flutist Neil Metcalf and guitarist Philip Gibbs, a trio that allows space and a free melodic approach to guide their intelligent discourse. ... Click to View


Fred Lonberg-Holm / Frode Gjerstad: Life On Sandpaper (FMR)

Frode Gjerstad in a duo with long time colleague Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm for 9 pieces performed in 2012, with Gjerstad on bass saxophone, Bb and bass clarinets and Lonberg-Holm on cello; open-ended dialog of compatible approaches to free improvisation. ... Click to View


Udu Calls Trio feat. William Parker: The Vancouver Tapes (Long Song Records)

A live recording from 1999 in Vancouver, two extended improvisations from drummer Tiziano Tononi's UDU Calls Trio featuring William Parker on double bass; Tiziano Tononi on drums, congas, gong, bells & whistles; Daniele Cavallanti on saxophone, Ney flute and bells. ... Click to View


Oren Ambarch: Quixotism (Editions Mego)

With collaborators from Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA, "Quixotism" presents guitarist Ambarchi's 5 part work, built on a foundation of pulsing double-time electronic percussion, with abstracted sonic additions punctuating and building a dream-like aural environment. ... Click to View


Darius Jones: The Oversoul Manual (Aum Fidelity)

The fourth installment in Darius Jones' on-going "Man'ish Boy" epic, an a cappella presentation from his vocal quartet, The Elizabeth-Caroline Unit using Jones' fictional, mythological sacred language used in the alien birthing ritual of a new being. ... Click to View


Matt Nelson: Lower Bottoms (Tubapede)

Brooklyn saxophonist Matt Nelson in a solo album of extended saxophone techniques along with a litany of guitar effects pedals, all run through a large 70's era Peavy combo amp with real-time feedback manipulation, a unique album of muscular playing and unusual soundscape. ... Click to View


The Gate (feat Tim Dahl / Nate Wooley): Stench [VINYL] (Smeraldina-Rima)

Massive, disturbing sound sculptures and forbidding landscapes, just what you'd expect from an album named "Stench" by tuba & amp player Dan Peck's The Gate, with Nate Wooley on trumpet & amp, Tim Dahl & Tom Blancarte on electric bass, and Brian Osborne on percussion. ... Click to View


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Painkiller 
Execution Ground  
(Subharmonic (1994)) 

review by William Burke
2003-08-20
Painkiller: Execution Ground (Subharmonic (1994))

Being a fan of Peter Brotzmann and other hard experimental jazz, I sought out Execution Ground with some anticipation. The idea of John Zorn doing a jazz-thrash hybrid band more than caught my attention. I was however somewhat skeptical and made it a point to get a hold of some Painkiller to see just what in the world was going on. I put in the CD, got a cup of coffee, and sat back with a sort of 'oh yea, show me' disposition. About half way through the first track I realized that I had spilled the coffee and hadn't even noticed. This was music that demanded to be listened to and after that initial playing it pushed several of my other CDs to the back of the shelf.

As I listened, I understood very quickly that this was a very focused effort. In many ways it was a logical step for Zorn between Naked City and Masada. Gone are the tricky jazz hooks that sometimes populated early Naked City albums, gone are the calculated chance of other projects, gone is the miscellaneous noise that sometimes seeps in. What is left is a pure blowing album with three highly skilled and focused players. Not only can they flat out play, but they also listen to one another in a way that is rarely accomplished in any kind of music. No filler, no empty calories, just pure clear focused sound.

Zorn, on sax and vocals, is joined by Bill Laswell on bass and former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris. They began their collaboration in 1991 when Zorn was listening to metal/grindcore groups such as Napalm Death. He discovered an intensity and creativity in this music that rivaled the 1960's free jazz players. From this admiration grew Painkiller, which successfully merges grindcore intensity with hard jazz sensibilities. The music is at once challenging, listenable and fairly unique. The only band that comes near it may be Last Exit, however the Painkiller sound is thankfully more sparse and the playing has a more carefully constructed lens.

Execution Ground is arranged in a series of strategic attacks on two discs. On disc one Zorn is in full-out, back-to-the-wall, straight-on thrash. He dips in and out of the weave of sound created by Laswell and Harris with graceful precision. There are no false steps, no misplaced notes. The drummer, Mick Harris does not overplay, often a danger in experimental music, but keeps things moving with well placed breaks, rolls, and melodic tom tom work. The glue, however, is Laswell, who thunders along with great timing and atmosphere. He moves through a wide range from ferocious rock licks, interesting hard bop, and even a little dub thrown in for good measure.

Disc two, which is labeled "Ambient," has more atmospheric playing, with a dark feel not unlike moments in Naked City'sTorture Garden but with a more ambient space: it's background music for the early morning darkness. It has the same unique merging of grindcore and hard bop, but in a more spacious and drawn out setting. Zorn holds long notes, then zigs and zags eerily through a series of ghostly patterns skillfully drawn by Laswell and Harris. It still grabs you and thrashes around, but in a more restrained way than disc one.

The moods achieved and the range of influences on this album are staggering. Even though at times the music is aggressive, anxious and intense, Painkiller manages to merge seemingly divergent directions in the music into a completely satisfying and engaging experience. The music cascades effortlessly through a series of different dynamics but always with an energizing point of convergence. While Zorn and Laswell have individually played in many different styles over the years, Execution Ground may be their most focused and complete vision to date.





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