This is probably best appreciated not as a new Peter Brötzmann album, but as fruit of the enduring partnership of Keiji Haino and Jim O’Rourke. Yes, Brötzmann and Haino also have their own history, and the main performance here is ultimately stamped with the German saxophonist’s imprimatur, but it’s Haino and O’Rourke who jointly seem to determine the course and dynamics of the main performance, which was recorded at Shinjuku Pit Inn, Tokyo, one night in November 2010.
“Two City Blues 2” (49:10) begins atmospherically: Smears of slide guitar pricked by finger-picked Shamisen and curlicuing alto sax – a Blind Willie Johnson Texas blues, relocated to Japan. Then Haino introduces a constricted vocal, O’Rourke taps into the power supply, and Brötzmann begins to play more harshly, in anguished, compacted phrases.
O’Rourke patterns short runs, increasing tempo until they become rhythmic and Haino’s three-stringed Shamisen is pulled into sympathy, and Haino and Brötzmann trade raw vocalisations. The rhythms of the string instruments run in parallel then pull apart, sparking saxophonic licks, before contracting once more, slowing to almost nothing; just Shamisen picking over harmonica-like shimmers of what might be feedback sax.
Brötzmann then plays a lovely, thoughtful colloquy against O’Rourke’s increasingly reverbed atmospherics, and Haino re-enters on guitar with a complimentary semi-acoustic tone, adding a new layer to the overarching rawness. The pace is ponderous now, but emotions are running high.
The heart of this extraordinary, forty-nine minute long performance is a ghostly miasma, a howling wind of FX’d guitar and eerie vocalese. It builds, threatens, and suddenly abates into a wordless Haino vocal lapped by guitar. Haino’s voice is lost in introspective incantation while ghosts of Americana sound in the guitar, till O’Rourke begins to tap on strings, enticing Haino into breathy staccato rhythms that ebb gently away.
Brötzmann is now exposed, muted and grizzling. Both O’Rourke and Haino rejoin, initially searching, needling and riffling for the right compliment, gradually conjoining as twined live-wires. Brötzmann firms up, a bit bolshier now, and imposes a melodic lick, and O’Rourke comes back at that with a screed of distorted tapping-on while Haino adds grit with fuzzed chords.
As the mix thickens, O’Rourke switches back to a thinner, more wiry sound, threading through Brötzmann’s increasingly full-throated intonation until, at the close, the mood is bluesy and Ayleresque, with their twinned hymnal clearly evoking Albert and Donald Ayler’s slightly off-kilter but deeply sympathetic partnership, co-opting its emotive heft.
Just one more piece: “One Fine Day” (06:04) stays close to the steady pacing of the main set. It’s a needling, rebarbative performance with both Haino and O’Rourke on electric guitars sand-blasting a hole in Brötzmann’s over-arching tenor sax solo. He emerges combative from the embers to counter raw noise with exhortation, but O’Rourke ultimately wraps everything in another sudden swarm of tapped-out notes.
This is great stuff. Three well-blooded improvisors yielding in commitment to another new context. It’s a distinctive entry in the ever-burgeoning catalogue of Brötzmann’s recorded work, and valuable in that sense, but is even more intriguing as a new branch of Jim O‘Rourke and Keiji Haino’s trioism with Oren Ambarchi and, as Nazoranai, with Stephen O’Malley.
Two City Blues 2 presents only one of the two sets recorded at Shinjuku Pit Inn that night in November 2010. It is available only on CD. A companion release, Two City Blues 1, will be available, only on vinyl, from February 2015.
Peter Brötzmann: alto/tenor-saxophone, tarogato, clarinet; Jim O‘Rourke: guitar; Keiji Haino: guitar, voice, shamisen.
Nazoranai – The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once Has it Arrived Already..?
Long Story Short – Wels 2011 Curated by Peter Brötzmann (5 CD).
Konstrukt feat. Peter Brötzmann – Eklisia Sunday.
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet – Concert for Fukushima (DVD).
Brötzmann, Adasiewicz, Edwards, Noble – Mental Shake + Brötzmann, Noble – I Am Here Where Are You.
Buy Two City Blues via Trost.