The Thing with Jim O’Rourke – Shinjuku Growl

(Smalltown Superjazz)

Since the scattered clatter of Paal Nilssen-Love’s set, enhanced — so to speak — by sparse moans and grunts emitted by bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten and micro-wails coming from Jim O’Rourke’s guitar, there is not too much of a wait before Mats Gustafsson sits at the wheel of a dangerous car, a customary bodybuilder-like approach to the visceral qualities of saxophone playing, producing a noticeable increasing of the tension over the opening minutes of the initial “If Not Ecstatic, We Replay”. Then the liberation finally materializes — powerfully. No time for reflective solitariness, as the quartet — recorded at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Pit Inn in 2008 — launches the first of a series of assaults characterized by an almost total lack of restraint, giving the idea of an indestructible unit for extended moments of free jazz-tinged entrancement.

The splendidly titled “Half A Dog Can’t Even Take A Shit” (an ironic reference to Peter Brotzmann and Han Bennink’s Ein Halber Hund Kann Nicht Pinkeln, namely “Half A Dog Can’t Piss” – thanks, Rigobert Dittmann!) continues along the same coordinates, the group exhausting their lungs (real and virtual) with hardly a pause, no apparent aim except that of expressing themselves at the loudest possible level. The massive screaming does not hide O’Rourke’s interesting textural research amidst the chaos, which left me pondering about the great things he has done in the past through his lonely tampering (pun intended). The lone moment of relative tranquility comes at the end of “I Can’t, My Mouth Is Already Full” — not without some serious dose of shrilling feedback and scathing upper partials piercing our membranes. The conclusive title track is probably the most variegated in terms of dynamics, radical utterance and muscular refinement attempting a problematic agreement.

In general, the album’s temperament is comparable to a few oldies-but-goodies on ESP, although its degree of revolutionary-ness is not the highest. At any rate, everybody’s extreme commitment to the cause is clear, thus there’s no way to call Shinjuku Growl a disappointment.


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