July 16, 2015
Tar & Feathers
Gusstaff Records Gram 1402
NotTwo MW 919-2
Playing Free Jazz may keep you young as Steve Lacy said and Peter Brötzmann prove . But the other part of this bromide is that experimental playing also demands some measure of discipline. Ironically that is the chief difference between these sessions. Like the equivalent of a swaggering motorcycle gang, young road warriors Cactus Truck, consisting of American expat reedist John Dikeman plus guitarist/bassist Jasper Stadhouders and drummer Onno Govaert from the Netherlands have with Seizures Palace created a tumescent sound wall that never seem to wane. In fact you can almost physically feel the pummeling wave forms. Tar & Feathers, created by slightly older, though no less committed players, demonstrates that a few pauses for breath and reflection create an even more varied program. On it Poles, Mikołaj Trzaska, who plays also saxophone and bass clarinet, and Rafał Mazur, whose instrument of choice is acoustic bass guitar, join with Hungarian drummer Balàzs Pàndi to pace themselves during a six-part set, recorded with as much live ambiance in Budapest as the other CD found at its session in Brooklyn.
Coming across like a Bizarro combination of late John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and every punk rocker who ever howled through a saxophone, Dikeman’s thickened tone is propelled with such power that it appears to threaten the stability of the venue’s plaster and brickwork. Hardly discriminating between alto or tenor saxophone timbres Dikeman constantly pushes his gravelling exposition onwards, and appears not to take a breath until “Drones”, the CD’s third track. Meanwhile, throughout, Stadhouders perfects the head-shaking – or is it head banging? – task of sounding out a distorted bass rumble as continuum, while shifting at points to distorted guitar clashes and slashes that are, fully embedded in Rock vocabulary. Govaert, whose sticks-and-rolls solo on “Fuck you Nash” appears almost restrained in this context, follows the others’ lead, like a primed hunting dog, providing shifting cascades behind the others violent thrusts. A tune such as “Fetzer” underlines these sonic contradictions. As Dikeman’s lines mutate into an approximation of “Ghosts”, Stadhouders’ pitch-shifting tone shredding confirms the punk connection. With textures exploding like hidden land mines throughout, you’re never sure when the climax is reached. Before setting up for another Dikeman blow-out that ends the CD however, Stadhouders animates “Fuck you Nash” with bass sluices that slow the piece down enough to demonstrate how his bass pulsing has been subtly shaping the program from the beginning.
Exciting overall and a record of what must have been a hell of a sensational sound bacchanal, Seizures Palace posits that with some repertoire tweaking plus more varied pacing, the trio’s performances could soon include circumspection along with emotion.
One band that could be a role model is Tar & Feathers, which manages to balance passion and profundity without having to dial the excitement factor down a notch. A first-time meeting, perhaps the proceedings gelled due to the band members’ experience. Gdańsk-based Trzaska, for instance has worked with the likes of reedists Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee; Krakow-based Mazur has a duo with American saxophonist Keir Neuringer; wheras Pàndi, usually a Rock drummer, has recorded with saxophonist Ivo Perelman.
Lead-off track “Climbing up the River” is bellicosely pwerful enough to initially hit with the same force that Cactus Truck brings to its concerts. But while Pàndi stays within the parametres of Rock practices Mazur’s snatching and scratching lines bring pliablity to his accompaniment. At the top of the miasma, the alto saxophoniost slows his trilling to paced, bugle-like reflections. Further on, the second and title track is outlind through bass guitar thumb pops and slides, with Trzaska’s theme elaboration in full ballad mode. This type of arrangement, clearly a step above Rock’s seat-of-the-leather-pants’ instrument-colliding, remains constant during the subsequent tracks. Swing echoes appear alongside the Rock beats, while Mazur’s capacity for creating guitar-like and/or sitar-like pulses dovetails nicely alongside the saxophonist’s echoing slurs; elsewhere wispy reed breathiness alternates with harsh woodwind bites. In one instance – “Patter of Seagulls” – the bassist slapping out a connective narrative from the lowest reaches of his strings works appropriately asTrzaska’s bass clarinet tongue-fluttering introduces a near -“legit” tone. New possibilities of improvisation are rife throughout.
Trzaska reverts to organized multiphonics expressed with tongue slaps and pressurized slurs on the concluding “Bleeding Sky Resting on the Ground” as the bassist and drummer stoically keep the rhythm going. With this motivated commotion firmly linked to the set’s introductory track, the set-up confirms that ecstasy can be balanced with equanimity during a memorable program. Tar & Feathers have internalized this supposition as key during the band’s high-quality release; Cactus Truck still has to understand this truism, but the band is heading in the right direction.
Track Listing: Seizures: 1. 0:14 2. Will to Power 3. Drones 4. Fetzer 5. Difference and Repetition 6. Fuck you Nash 7. One for Roy 8. Fourth Wind 9.*
Personnel: Seizures: John Dikeman (alto and tenor saxophones); Jasper Stadhouders (guitar and bass) and Onno Govaert (drums)
Track Listing: Tar: 1. Climbing up the River 2. Tar and Feathers 3. Black Ice Crackle 4. Bout with Transparent Bottom 5. Patter of Seagulls 6. Bleeding Sky Resting on the Ground
Personnel: Tar: Mikołaj Trzaska (also saxophone and bass clarinet); Rafał Mazur (acoustic bass guitar) and Balàzs Pàndi (drums)