Yes, more Peter Brötzmann, but definitely not more of the same.
Risc (Trost) is the latest from a trio that has evolved as the closest current corollary of Last Exit, as a truly co-operative group with no fixed leader, operating in the scorched earth no-man’s land of electric post-rock improvisation.
Full Blast initially seemed very much like Brötzmann’s trio, but all three co-depend, and it’s the Swiss free-rhythm section of electric bassist Marino Pliakas and drummer Michael Wertmüller, more so the latter’s extra-performative input, which really define the trio’s sound and impact.
2011’s Sketches and Ballads was a sextet interpretation of Wertmüller’s 50 page score, but Risc is something altogether different. The main surprise here is the presence of hard-disk electronica, with significant post-production by Wertmüller also incorporating treatments by Gerd Rische, whose name really ought to feature with the others’ on the album’s cover.
Rische is director of the electronic studio at Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, which is where, in 2007, he collaborated with Wertmüller and Piaklas on the Ives #1 project, described in the CTM Festival Archive as “Speed metal and Grindcore meets Free Jazz interspersed with Noise” – a description which also fits Risc to a T.
The opening glint and shimmer of processed electric strings are the most surprising sounds on a Brötzmann recording since the field-recorded ambience of 1977’s Schwarzwaldfahrt. What follows is a country-mile from those back-to-basics duets with Han Behnnink, but Brötzmann’s woody clarinet (or tarogato) tone warms the cold electr(on)ic grain. Pliakas, meanwhile, concocts a martial rhythm that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tom waits record.
This cut, “Try Kraka”, has a fried intensity that’s amplified by turntablist glitches and the odd jarring interruption of silence. When Brötzmann tears into a trademark tenor sax line the drummer tries out a papery brushes-on-snare sound, while underneath everything Pliakas’ bass grinds through a marl of electronically manipulated cymbals. A surprise coda has the bass in a higher electric guitar register, and heavy drumming subject to a welter of processing.
“Cafe Ingrid” seems relatively conventional at first, with the trio now exposed in a a clear soundfield, sounding rather tense and tetchy. Still, Wertmüller’s drumming is an update on Ronald Shannon Jackson’s with an awareness of Dave Lombardo – loud and kick-drum heavy, often a constant molten rumble. And Pliakas complements that stye with freejazz bass, played with hardcore intensity and (math)rock intricacy.
“Cafe Ingrid” works up to a high pitch of intensity, so Brötzmann’s reflective clarinet solo intro to “Doss House” provides welcome contrast. The mechanical electronics that break in after two minutes seem wonderfully rude, and soon the piece is transformed into a mechano-industrial monster, chugging along like a demon locomotive gathering steam as it ploughs into a storm. A weird interval inserts an electronic beat, and what sounds like processed prepared piano.
Next up, “Garnison Lane” is a pretty straightforward, full-throttle workout, with Brötzmann developing a through-line of grizzled focus amid Wertmüller and Pliakas’ hardcore free-play.
“TTD” injects broadcast voices and other found sounds into vortices of post-metal free jazz, then mutattes into a martial, electronically-straffed timpani workout, with little room for Brötzmann’s reeds. When he does pitch in some piercing lines, this only invites his cohorts to pile on more layers of violently abrasive noise. This is great stuff to these ears—the multi-plateau climax is thunderously forceful—but purists will blanch, no doubt.
“Schwarzspanier Street” again falls back on the salve of solo clarinet, sounding very trad in context, and then the trio enjoys a plugged-in workout au naturel. No surprise, then, that the final cut, “Roguery”, is radically out-there, a grinding industrial jazz production, heavy with disrupted beats and electronica amidst which, as ever, Brötzmann holds his own with imperious authority.
Peter Brötzmann reeds; Marino Pliakas electric bass; Michael Wertmüller drums; Gerd Rische electronics.