I get the same thrill listening to the debut album of GRID that I got when first hearing Little Women’s first release, Throat. It’s the excitement that comes from hearing free improv that’s unabashedly big, loud and terrifying.
Tim Dahl (bass guitar), Matt Nelson (saxophone) and Nick Podgurski (drums) make up what promises to be the new standard in heavy doom jazz. GRID, due out March 24, 2017 from NNA Tapes, is a set of four, more-or-less ten minute dirge excursions down the dark, cold back alleys behind the small area where metal and jazz coincide. The ‘metal’ part comes largely from how Dahl’s and Nelson’s instruments are repurposed: the electric bass leaves an ultra-low, fat footprint while Nelson’s sax is hooked up to electronics that make it mimic the sound of a fuzzed-out, psychedelic guitar.
What soon becomes clear from creaky feedback that runs through the first track “(+_+)” is that you can’t even tell Nelson is playing a saxophone most of the time, it sounds akin to killer whale mating calls or a mortally wounded elephant. Meanwhile, Dahl’s bass doesn’t pulse, it yawns and yawns wide. “(-_+)” is so droned out, it’s impossible to separate Dahl from Nelson, and for just two guys, they create one hell of a large mass of noise. Eventually though, they break out from the confines of the industrial murmur, instigated by Podgurski’s stumbling drums. Nelson rises up to scream, wail and pummel silence into submission with an impassioned act of free form
“(-_-)” is just a little sparser than the previous two tracks, and that leaves more room for Nelson to exploit monster-snarling electronic effects and in spots you can even make out an actual saxophone. The buzz of “(+_-)” slowly builds up to increasingly urgent wails, and every time Nelson plays a note, it seems five other people are playing it, too, multiplying everything he plays into an orchestra of commotion.
Describing GRID as ‘guttural’ is a modest way to put it, but Matt Nelson, Tim Dahl and Nick Podgurski are accomplished at the art of improvisation and so they make their racket with a lot of awareness. Scary music created on the fly has rarely sounded so sweet.
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