It was the unexpected event of the 2005 FIMAV festival: avant jazz legend Anthony Braxton joining noisy bad boys Wolf Eyes on-stage. But it did not come completely out of left field. A few months earlier at another festival, the 60-year-old saxophonist had attended a performance by the Michigan noise trio and was transformed, buying a copy of everything the band had to sell that night. The man had been hit in the face by noise music. At the 22nd FIMAV, Braxton was scheduled to play a duo concert with Fred Frith on Friday and a concert with his sextet on Sunday. The Saturday was co-curated by Thurston Moore, who had programmed a bunch of soft and harsh noise bands (No-Neck Blues Band's Nine for Victor was recorded that same day), including an afternoon double bill featuring Hair Police and Wolf Eyes. For the occasion, the latter consisted of Nathan Young, John Olson, and Hair Police's Mike Connelly -- and Braxton, as a special guest, for the whole 40-minute set. It could have been disastrous, but that would be mistaking Wolf Eyes for a band of stupid teenagers (which they aren't) and mistaking the saxophonist for an old close-minded fool (which he ain't). On "The Mangler," the trio proceeds with caution, slowly building up its noise layers, leaving ample room for Braxton to weave in his idiosyncratic lines. Both parties clearly understand what the other stands for and adapt their approaches accordingly. When Olson and Braxton engage in a sax duo, they play on the same level and, for a couple of minutes, they speak the same language. After that lengthy piece, the group has time for another "song" and Olson asks Braxton whether he would like to hear "Leopard War" or "Black Vomit." Without hesitation, the living legend answers back "Black Vomit" with a smile of pure delight and the quickness of a man in the know. That reaction summed up the whole experience for the people in attendance, so it is no surprise that the album bears that name. Braxton purists are in for a solid headache, of course, but something really clicked between these artists, and it was all in good fun. As far as Wolf Eyes' discography goes, this is also one of their best-recorded albums.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
feat: Anthony Braxton
feat: Anthony Braxton