Free Nelson Mandoomjazz – Awakening of a Capital [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR051, 42:59 [3/2/15] ***1/2:
(Rebecca Sneddon – alto saxophone; Colin Stewart – electric bass; Paul Archibald – drums)
What is Free Nelson Mandoomjazz? The oddly-named group is a Scottish instrumental trio which blends doomy heavy metal music, improvisational music/jazz and influences which range from horror fiction to early-20th century experimental/avant-garde music. Free Nelson Mandoomjazz’s first full-length release is the 42-minute, eight-track Awakening of a Capital, which follows two EPs, which were combined into a single CD last year. Those EPs— 2013’s Saxophone Giganticus and 2014’s The Shape of Doomjazz to Come— established the trio’s nature: a potent permutation of post-1960s free jazz, aggressive metal material and sludgy ‘90s alternative rock. Awakening of a Capital trims down the ensemble’s Black Sabbath tendencies and enhances the threesome’s drone and jazz inclinations. It’s no surprise alto saxophonist Rebecca Sneddon, electric bassist Colin Stewart and drummer Paul Archibald have found a home on the RareNoise label. Free Nelson Mandoomjazz complements the imprint’s roster such as Spin Marvel, the likeminded JŪ and Brainkiller. Awakening of a Capital has been issued as 180-gram vinyl, CD and digital download. This review refers to the CD version.
One of the group’s less obvious inspirations is avant-garde composer Luigi Russolo, a pioneer of experimental noise music in the 1910s and 1920s. This album’s title, Awakening of a Capital, is an homage to one of Russolo’s non-traditional compositions. Russolo’s manifesto called for orchestrated music to be merged with noise-generating devices which could make noise types such as bangs, booms, whistling, screeching and so on. While Free Nelson Mandoomjazz does not reconstruct Russolo’s material, the trio carries on a parallel auditory aesthetic with a method which mingles squealing from a sax and other dissonance from sax and electric bass; incessant rhythms contrasted against harsher intonations; and other, associated approaches.
The influences and intentions are spelled out on the fifty-second intro, “Sunn Ra))),” which alludes to Sun Ra and drone metal band Sunn O))). The brief opener melds into the slowly revolving “The Stars Unseen,” an anxiety-addled creation one might expect to hear if an H.P. Lovecraft short story had an accompanying soundtrack. There is a decelerated, slouching tempo, which is a characteristic shared by Sunn O))), and much room for Sneddon to emphasize and reiterate a minimal theme. A recurring bassline gradually goes from straightforward to fuzzy and distorted; drums become denser; and Sneddon proceeds into a piercing, post-Coltrane zone. The Lovecraftian legacy is more forthright on other cuts. “The Pillars of Dagon” denotes a demonic creature mentioned in some of Lovecraft’s literature. The bracing tune has an escalation reminiscent of Lovecraft’s sense of dread, particularly through the use of otherworldly breathing and wind which begins the piece; the edgy, loping melody; and the steady ascendancy to a louder and more assertive middle section, where Stewart viciously scrapes across his fret-board like a man undergoing an exorcism. That’s followed by the equally trepidation-tinted “Erich Zann,” an allusion to Lovecraft’s tale, “The Music of Erich Zann,” about a violinist who fashions strange melodies to constrain unknown and invisible monsters from another dimension. Here, again, Free Nelson Mandoomjazz works through a carefully-constructed arrangement which features hazily distorted bass, Sneddon’s emotion-laden alto sax (which fluctuates between blues and freer jazz), and another middle segment full of ominous impressions, gouging drums and a persistent bass.
The other, probable Lovecraft-related number, is the closer: “Beneath the Sea.” Several Lovecraft narratives were connected to foreboding denizens of the deep ocean, and “Beneath the Sea” certainly has a comparable feeling of apprehension and menace, accentuated by Stewart’s warped bass, Archibald’s lingering, gloom-meshed drumming and Sneddon’s eerie sounds: throughout, she clacks her sax keys to produce clattering, percussion noises (which reverberate like large claws on a hard surface), and never actually blows notes. Other tracks, such as “Poking the Bear” and “Stay the Light” have equivalent arrangements which fuse portentous bass, forceful sax and commanding drums. Understandably, Awakening of a Capital is not for all tastes, especially not for cautious jazz listeners. But Free Nelson Mandoomjazz is readymade for musical adventurers who appreciate music which steps toward terra incognita.
TrackList: Sunn Ra))); The Stars Unseen; The Land of Heat and Greed; Poking the Bear; The Pillars of Dagon; Erich Zann; Slay the Light; Beneath the Sea.