Torden Kvartetten

Ninth World Music NWM 035 CD

By Ken Waxman

More profondo than basso, the 13 tracks on this CD plumb the contrapuntal and polyrhythmic tones available from low-pitched instruments. But significantly, 13 EFGHL is concerned with more than that, since the musicians involved – baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and tubaist Per-Âke Holmlander from Sweden and electric bassist Peter Friis Nielsen and percussionist Peter Ole Jørgensen from Denmark – go further than wallow in mineshaft-deep pitches.

In the lineage of extroverted reedists like Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann, Gustafsson consistently plays altissimo for full expression of his tongue-slapping, multiphonic screams and metal-rattling timbres. His harsh, stuttering solos contain what could be wounded vulture cries as well as the occasional subterranean rumbles. Most of the low tones are left to Holmlander, whose burping extrusions coupled with Friis Nielsen’s palm-tapping string beats produce a steadying, adagio ostinato. Freed from time-keeping, Ole Jørgensen – who with the bassist has backed-up Brötzmann – further lightens the sound with bell-pealing cymbal shimmers, focused bass drum whacks and pitter-pattering press rolls.

Although the reedist’s shattering cries are most prominent on shorter tracks, notable displays of four-sided co-operation appear on the nearly-13-minute “Udgået, topmodel” and the almost-nine-minute “Med løkken om halsen”. Claustrophobic at points, due to the tubaist’s concentrated, chromatic note-pumping, the former features a reverberant duet between tuba and bass. That is until Holmlander’s quivering pedal point and Jørgensen’s cymbal slaps then push Gustafsson’s previously fractured lines into conclusive counterpoint with the other horn.

A tuba showcase, the other track finds the saxophonist’s widely vibrated split tones superseded by fanned plunger-like timbres from Holmlander that doggedly evolve into subtle grace note elaborations as a finale.

In MusicWorks Issue #99