18 Jan 2022 - Stephan
Free Jazz, Impro Jazz | Subcontinental Records | Release date: 25 Dec 2021
Despite - or because of - the plague, which still and again limits and cancels live shows worldwide, some artists have been remarkably prolific during 2021. Gonçalo Almeida is one of those guys. If you trace the nine different releases the Portuguese bass player, who switches between upright and electric bass, was involved in last year alone, you’ll soon find yourself on a wide sonic odyssey, which can keep you occupied for days. And something similar could probably be said about his two partners on this album, fellow countryman Luís Lopes on guitar and German drummer Phillipp Ernsting, fellow member of the sick Netherlands-based post metal/jazzcore trio Albatre.
Even without all instances of playing together in the past, the vitas of these three jazz cats have a lot in common. And that lot is best delineated with tags like free jazz, noise, experimental, dynamic and unorthodox. Misantrope is a completely improvisational live recording which highlights each of those aspects while showcasing the actual variety behind the buzz words.
The basic principle behind each of the six long tracks, which reach an average length of approximately nine and a half minutes, seems to be that Almeida provides the most steady runs, which anchor the sound in something you can follow - at least most of the time -, while Lopes moves from textures to lead guitar to noise, and Ernsting just constantly fires polyrhythmic insanity. All this gives the impression of a permanently changing swell, an ocean swirling in shifting intensity - and sometimes growing into tsunami waves with some crazy shit surfing on top of them. When the trio shows restraint and economizes on notes, like in the beginning of the opener Fall Of Icarus, it feels like doom jazz. Not the meticulously planned Bohren & der Club of Gore-kind with absolutely minimalist drumming, but rather the free-flowing experimental form of Dictaphone. And as speed and volume are gradually increasing, the stylistic reception suddenly changes to some wild breed of jazz rock fusion without us really noticing when it happened.
This music never finds together in the way that everyone is hitting the same beat, tempo and harmony together at the exact same time and you’re sighing in relief that now it’s finally a song! At least it doesn’t do that for long. There are instances like in the second piece “Seven Vices”, where the trio seemingly out of nowhere breaks into a couple of very deliberate and tightly performed distorted power chords, which ultimately even lead to a short grindcore frenzy. The fashion, in which this happens, leaves no doubt that Almeida | Lopes | Ernsting are doing their thing on purpose. They are the masters of their own chaos with a clear - probably not defined, but mutually felt - vision of the space in which their improvisations take place. It’s an environment which allows slow-paced build-ups from an almost ambient starting point like in “Tower Of Babel”, but also the immediately cudgeling, persistent heavy jazz brutality of “Rebel Angels”, without ever letting it become a totally different, alien thing.
From the start to the closing title track, in which especially Ernsting finally goes absolutely bonkers, “Misanthrope” has an excellent flow and something new and exciting to tell with each new chapter. As ideally with any jazzcore-infused music of the John Zorn tradition - and even if you don’t really get it in a deeper way yet - you can just have a lot of fun with the sheer craziness of its spontanous arrangements.
However, the thing I personally perceive as most exciting about this album is that the glue which holds everything together, despite all the seemingly chaotic burbs and peeps on the surface, really is its coherent atmosphere. Even when the instruments are so busy that it technically shouldn’t leave any room for brooding, Misanthrope first and foremost is a convincing suite of dark mood. So January, February - bring on your worst, depressing weather, damp snow, cold wind, graupel, hail and all! I am prepared.