The Thing


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With Boot! the Thing celebrate the launch of their own label, dedicated not only to this and future releases, but also to reissuing their catalog and keeping it in print. This European punk-jazz power trio -- baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love -- have established a reputation for an integrative garage band approach that blurs lines between rock, funk, jazz, free improv, and noise. Boot! contains six tracks: three group originals, one by Håker Flaten, and two re-purposed jazz standards. The set opener is a stomping, grinding, slow-burning read of John Coltrane's "India," with Håker Flaten playing a barely contained noise-rock electric bass. Nilssen-Love follows the example set by Elvin Jones on the original, circling around the repetitive two-note theme and flailing against it, while Gustafsson's baritone saxophone blazes the head hypnotically before improvising in the lower tonal range as the group follows in a wild, intense ride. "Re:Boot!" takes a hard-rocking approach to vanguard jazz. Electric bass and sax trade riffs; they establish interlocking sound patterns as Nilssen-Love's drums forcefully prod, until all hell breaks loose, as Eastern European wedding music ripples against metallic vamps and driving free improvisation. Duke Ellington's "Heaven" commences with whispering cymbals. Gustafsson and Håker Flaten articulate the theme in widening circles, allowing angles and tonal variations inside before they pick up the tempo and loosen the tune's moorings. Nilssen-Love's drums swing through the head, and the bassline retains the theme even as Gustafsson eventually winds out the harmonic frame, stretching it to the breaking point without wiping out its traces. The bassist's "Red River" possesses such a roiling, sinister engagement it approaches Sonic Youth-esque noise-rock terrain. The title track features a slowly evolving, brooding theme. The drums double- and triple-time, yet provide a solid foundation for Gustafsson's horn to sing, bleat, and cry with searing emotional expression. Håker Flaten paints the backdrop with expansive atmospherics and poignant lines and chords. Even when things get crazy, he anchors the saxophonist allowing him to explore. The 14-minute "Epilog" is an all-out jam. It commences with droning bass, and a two-note saxophone vamp that gets elongated with each pass. When Nilssen-Love enters with rumbling, stampeding tom-toms, things are already unhinged, the music pushes the margin and cuts free of restraint, entering into its own sonic language, dialoguing poetically with color, tone, space, and texture. It moves so far out, it has to come back; and so it does via the drummer's accelerated, circular funky breaks; they prod the band to climb down, eventually finding a grooving rock & roll center to close. Boot! not only refines what the Thing do, it extends them into a breathtaking sphere where a Babel-like musical conversation takes place, elevating all of its singular elements into a rough, raucous, glorious whole.

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