Caspar Brötzmann electric guitar; Marino Pliakas electric bass; Michael Wertmüller drums, FM Einheit steel.
Caspar Brötzmann is one of the most instantly recognisable electric guitar stylists, only loosely comparable to Keiji Haino of Fushitsusha, but entirely distinctive in his predilection for tense, protracted playing in dirty overtone-saturated lines across molten, viscous rhythms.
Brötzmann mastered his art with Massaker, a mutable trio which came into full, ferocious focus on the albums Koksofen (1993) and Home (1995) (the latter part-produced by FM Einhart, who also has a role to play on HOHOME). One track by a late incarnation of Massaker concludes the Long Story Short colection of recordings from WELS 2011, a festival curated by Caspar’s father, Peter Brötzmann. It follows another piece from the same concert by the elder Brötzmann’s electric trio, Blast First. Well it’s the bassist and drummer from Blast First, Marino Pliakas and Michael Wertmüller, who accompany Caspar Brötzmann in the core trio on NOHOME, which was recorded live in a Berlin studio in 2012.
It’s a great match. The rhythm teams’ ability to lay down steamroller grooves, as they do on “Two” (the track titles here are self-explanatory), prompting the guitarist to revel in reeling out the high-tension spools of taut, grizzly sustain and whorls of feedback in which he excels.
On NOHOME tracks “Three” and “Four” FM Einheit is credited with “steel”, and that can be taken both literally and figuratively. From the early 80s to the mid 90s, Einheit was the outré percussionist with seminal German industrialists Einstürzende Neubauten. in 1994, he hooked up with Caspar Brötzmann to record the ferocious but not entirely successful duo album Merry Christmas (Blast First). Their grinding interplay is much more effective with the backing of Pliakas and Wertmüller. The propulsion duo are at their most restrained on “Three”, where guitar de-tunings echo off Einheit’s reverberant metallic scrapes and strikes, but it’s a spiky, friction-charged listen that threatens irruption.
Einheit is pictured on the album cover playing a large, suspended steel spring, and this we can hear throughout “Three” and at the outset of “Four”, twanging away, creating abstract industrial texture. Unsettling as it is, “Three” comes as necessary shade from the remorselessly coruscating playing that dominates elsewhere.
For the most part, Pliakas and Wertmüller work larval percussive grooves and grinding bass lines, creating an igneous soundscape to contain Brötzmann’s tensile waves of sound, which the quartet ultimately push to a massive, almost overwhelming wall of energy as “Four” brings the album to a close.
NOHOME doesn’t have such as distinctive group sound as Massaker. I missed Brötzmann’s guttural vocalising – there are no vocals here – and the tribal feel implicit in Massaker’s rhythm sense and general vibe of marshalled anarchy. NOHOME are much more straightforward. But they have a rare marriage of piledriving, thrash metal intensity and raw improv chops, never sounding like a cut and shut band but rather a sharply focused entity. Better yet, Brötzmann sounds if anything much freer and more focused in this context.