An Untroublesome Defencelessness

Merzbow / Keiji Haino / Balázs Pándi

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An Untroublesome Defencelessness Review

by Thom Jurek

While Hungarian drummer Balázs Pándi may be the least familiar member of this power trio, he is the hub that the wheel of An Untroublesome Defencelessness turns on. Pándi has been a staple of the RareNoise Records stable; he's played on numerous dates for the label with everyone from Jamie Saft and Joe Morris to Ivo Perelman, Wadada Leo Smith, and Roswell Rudd, from Merzbow (Masami Akita), Mats Gustafsson, and Thurston Moore to Colin Edwin, Massimo Pupillo, and Eraldo Bernocchi. Over the decades, Haino has played with Merzbow several times. This session date marks the very first time he has played with Pándi, but it doesn't sound like it.

Yeah, this is a hell-of-a-noise freewheeling skronk and scree session, but that's not all. Pándi's skills as a drummer exist on a plane that intersects Rashied Ali, Tomas Haake, and Tatsuya Yoshida. He is always moving, charging, and feinting. He pushes the flow outward, finding rhythms that both circle and extend. Given the sometimes overwhelming intensity Merzbow exhibits -- even in his collaborative work -- the establishment of tension that creates conversation rather than soliloquy is a daunting task. Haino, as attuned to space as he is to attack, can also be dominant. His shard-like leads, fragmented chord voicings, and waves of feedback hover, shred, and peel sonic paint. Both men allow the sheer force and musical dynamism of Pándi's drums to guide the musical flow. There are two extended improvisations divided into seven tracks. The first three parts make up "Why Is the Courtesy of the Prey Always Confused with the Courtesy of the Hunters…." In the introduction to the first part, Pándi establishes pace, while Merzbow crams sheets of noise underneath and Haino asserts a sparse series of jazz-like chords and contrapuntal vamps. In the last minute, Merzbow drops out, and it becomes a two-part dialogue with pointed give and take. In the second part of "How Differ the Instructions on the Left from the Instructions on the Right?" the individual members all display exactly what they do best: Merzbow's whiteouts are pulse-like, cadenced, spindled, and warped, offering their own polyrhythmic sense. Haino goes on the full attack with a tsunami of feedback, whammy bar freakout, and other worldly harmonics, while Pándi establishes a full circular pattern on his entire kit that flows between and through his collaborators. He adjusts tempo, adds quick fills, and finds room to respond and assert with a triple-timed contrapuntal attack that somehow, amid the chaos, creates dark beauty and order. There isn't anything subtle about An Untroublesome Defencelessness -- its aggression, power, and violence are always at the fore. That said, the levels of mutual respect, attentiveness to detail, and dazzling, instinctive, and dialogic communication make the set worth returning to over and again. This is free improvisation at its very best, and it gets everything right.

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