You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Reviewed by: Tim Owen
A strong blueprint for the future
Mats Gustafsson – Tenor and Baritone saxophones, electronics, Fender Rhodes
Johan Berthling – Double Bass, electric guitar, electric bass, Hammond organ
Andreas Werliin – Drums and percussion
+ Mariam Werliin – Vocals (one track)
Well this is an unlikely lineup; three Swedish musicians all from well-known groups, each group operating in quite distinct areas of music. Andreas Werliin and his partner Mariam are best known for their powerfully eccentric, song-based work as the duo Wildbirds and Peacedrums. Johan Berthling plays alongside his brother Johan in the trio Tape, where they mix ‘lower case’ electronics with a strain of post-rock that’s heavily under the influence of minimalism and imbued with subtle hints of jazz. Gustafsson seems to have played with just about everyone from Brötzmann to Zu, but appears most consistently as the lead voice of The Thing. So there’s fair potential for a real dog’s dinner of a recording.
If I Took Your Hand kicks things off predictably enough, with a mesmeric, rock-steady double bass thrum and arrhythmic cymbal splashes underpinning a Brötzmann-esque tenor sax squall. The gentler But Sometimes I Am begins with just Berthling and Werliin, now becalmed. Gustafsson enters a couple of minutes in, also quieter but his tone still sanguinary. The persistence of the rhythm section’s relaxed vibe slowly enervates the saxophonist’s tension, and a sustained Hammond shimmer is introduced along with an understated wordless vocal (her only contribution to the album) from Mariam Werliin for a drowsy middle section. Andreas Werliin’s touch becomes noticeably lighter behind his partner’s vocal, but builds a rattle-trap momentum as the track climaxes with feedback guitar and Fender Rhodes embellishments creating a peculiarly low-key tension.
Can I Hold You For A Minute? patiently accretes density with a doomy, mantric bass pulse that wouldn’t be out of place on a record by Om underpinning martial drums amid layered whorls of electric keyboard effects and guitar distortion. A nicely handled breakdown at the close leaves just guitar and organ swirling, circling each other as if left behind by a retreating tide. The title track is little more than a contrasting coda; a Baritone sax riff with shuffling snare drum and handclap accompaniment.
The biggest surprise of this recording is that each musician brings to the proceedings something of the essence of their usual respective groups: Werliin his eccentrically unemphatic rhythmic sensibility and Gustafsson free-jazz bluster. But it’s Berthling who seems to assert the strongest influence. “You Liked Me” has many of the qualities of Tape’s work: insistent, minimalist repetitions building up a shimmering musical haze. Of course “You Liked Me” would be most casually classified as free jazz since in it’s essentials - primarily it’s instrumentation – it fits that bill.
But the group presumably didn’t set out to make a jazz recording or a recording in any other category. They come together somewhere in the interstices of jazz, post-rock and what might be generalized as art music. They hold more promise than they have delivered with this album, but it’s a strong blueprint for the future.
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