Reviews by Massimo Ricci

The A23H chronicle



"Expedition" was recorded live at New York's Knitting Factory in 2001. The four protagonists hadn't met previously, except the "German section" of Tammen (endangered guitar) and Harth (here on tenor sax and bass clarinet) who had jammed together in "some serious impro-camp" - as Mr. 23 would have it - yet never shared a "real" playing experience. The saxophonist was already in NY at that time, pursuing the collective vision of the Trio Viriditas with Wilber Morris and Kevin Norton, so linking the Tammen & Harth factors with bassist-cum-electronics Dahlgren and drummer Rosen didn't reveal to be an insurmountable problem. The record is technically subdivided in ten tracks delivered in a one-flow performance whose frantic energy and tension level sets the music free from the remnants of whatever somnolence or syrupy frustration could eventually exist. The recording quality doesn't cause us to shout "gloria in te domine", but then again I don't remember a single album taped at this venue where the sound is not raw and belligerent, almost bootleg-like. The fascinating mystique of sensitive improvisation is confirmed in its totality, several solo spots finding room amidst torrential exchanges that need no recurring to common-man swing to excite the audience (jeez, someone still gets excited with swing). Each voice is effectively distinguishable, contributing with unique colours and ideas; there is no necessity of framing a continuous series of spurts and discharges that, at times, become quite uneasy to mentally control. One has to listen carefully and ride the wave surfer-style, while enjoying the alternance of refined linearism and scintillating counter-striking: "Retained notions of speed and purpose", for instance, juxtaposes a strict discussion between a semi-serene Harth and a less tranquil Tammen, who works wonders with a volume pedal and a pitch transposing device at the end of the piece. When Dahlgren and Rosen decide to join the party, it amounts to something that resembles the fuming and the boiling of sulphuric waters, the music's potential pushed to the maximum. Great interplay is also to be enjoyed in "A long trip by the water", beginning with the semblance of a metre (nice arco work by Dahlgren, by the way) over which A23H applies ever-changing sketches of anti-stereotypic intolerance, the terrorist-turned-guitar slinger remaining in jingling-harmonic mode for minutes before starting to execute abnormally quick repetitive phrases mixing Hans Reichel and Jeff Beck with fingers stuck in a high-voltage outlet. I wonder what the guitarist's hair looked like at the finish of this section, which Rosen underlines with the hardest accompaniment since John Bonham in "Dazed and confused". Throughout such moments, when the whole nears a cathartic state, all musicians accelerating and/or squealing and/or punching each other's face with sneering blasts, one thinks of punk - a supposedly "violent" expression - and laughs hard. The same (I mean laughing hard) happened to this writer after reading an online review of this CD which, after an endless river of vacuous words, spelled the record as "boring". The guy probably played this stuff as a next-room background while momma was serving him his ravioli, yet another wannabe looking to be hired at the post office while insisting in writing about things that he can't comprehend. Five Euros to the first who guesses his nationality. Meanwhile, enjoy the expedition's outcome - they came back healthy. Me, even healthier.

In Touching Extremes