As a companion piece to the twin-engined quintet recording of The Vilnius Explosion, released this fall by Lithuanian upstart No Business Records, The Vilnius Implosion provides a solid chunk of unmitigated Mats on baritone saxophone, alto fluteophone, and vicious slide saxophone shears. Though a self-confessed vinyl nut, far too few of Gustafsson’s releases are on vinyl, and No Business is nudging rectification by releasing this date on a single slab of wax in limited quantities.
Though Gustafsson is by no means under-recorded, most of his recent output has focused on The Thing, his trio with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten. So while the Explosion features a quartet of Lithuanian musicians – reedman Liudas Mockunas, bassist Eugenijus Kanevicius, and drummers Arkadijus Gotesmanas and Marijus Aleska – with whom Gustafsson was unfamiliar with prior to his Lithuanian visit, so Implosion finds him in a somewhat rare solo context.
It’s easy to forget that, with the rocking drive of The Thing (aided and abetted by a choice of tunes from Mongezi Feza, Don Cherry, and The Sonics) Gustafsson is a player whose language is based on pure sound, whether in nuanced fingerings of a slight phrase or room-panning cinderblocks and vein-popping, metallic overblowing. The opener, “Portrait,” for baritone, begins in delicate clicks and pops, slap-tonguing caresses and percussion that, through whispers and sighs, circle until Gustafsson carves out brays and screams – it’s here that the force of quietude and loudness appear as equals in tension and release, of small objects making their presence felt in an area equally imposing as that of thick sandblasted sections. Lines are quickly subsumed into broad strokes, an unsubtle energy that’s more defining action than the process of paces.
“I Have Destroyed It Already from Day One” teases with a dirty, plodding blues at its outset that recalls Peter Brötzmann’s plundering of “Lonely Woman” on 14 Love Poems (FMP, 1983). Here, Gustafsson starts with peals and subtracts until they become buzzing subtonal growls, instrument ending on a palette of coarse fur and metal. Gustafsson takes vibrato and turns it into space-defining gesture, swinging left and right and building his own pillars and walls. As a title, Implosion is rather apt, for this music is far from catharsis, yet its tonal investigations skirt anything resembling phrases or their deconstruction. Rather, Gustafsson paints a sonic enclosure with wildly exacting strokes, a hard physical relief jutting in from the fakebook of freedom.
~ Clifford Allen