Underflow Releases at The New York City Jazz Record
Mats Gustafsson (Underflow)
Live at The Underflow Record Store and Art Gallery
David Grubbs/Mats Gustafsson/Rob Mazurek(Underflow)
In times like these, maybe what we need, whether we
know it or not, is a soft and placid Mats Gustafsson.The relentless Swedish reedplayer, who turns 56 thismonth, has one of the most recognizable tones aroundtoday, largely but not entirely due to the sheer force ofhis blowing. But three recent records show asurprising—well, not quite softness, but a sort ofpliability. The gentler side of Gustafsson, rest assured,still has a jagged edge. These albums—a solo and twotrios—aren’t exactly easy listening, but are refreshingin a terrain he traipses less often.
Worn. Kissed.can be heard as an environmentalrecord and, in fact, could best be heard in a space withother sounds: birds, foghorns, maybe a smoke alarm.Side One is occupied by “The Hypnagogic Puzzle”,referencing the state just before sleeping. 22 minutesof extended silences are interrupted by very briefpassages of flute, electronics and deep inhalations. Thelittle puzzles of pitch and pulsation, not even minuets,really, make for a fantastic suite of disorientation andconsciousness subsumed. The flip goes a bit darker,with two pieces for baritone saxophone and moresparing use of electronics and named (like the firstpiece and the album itself) after paintings by thecontemporary Swedish artist Edward Jarvis (b. 1964,the same year as Gustafsson). The album comes notjust with a 48-page book of Jarvis’ paintings buta 500-piece jigsaw puzzle of one of them, housed ina handsome, gold-embossed black box, released inconjunction with a show of Jarvis’ paintings at theUnderflow Record Store and Gallery in Athens.
Underflow is also responsible for a trio release byGustafsson, guitarist David Grubbs and piccolotrumpeter Rob Mazurek (who also plays wooden fluteand percussion), recorded in 2019 and titled simplyLive at The Underflow Record Store and Art Gallery.Gustafsson again plays flute and baritone, along witha hybrid flutophone (a flute body with a saxophonemouthpiece) and he and Mazurek both employ liveelectronics. Guitar is amplified as well, but the sessionnevertheless turns out to be a fairly low-key set of fourabstract improvisations: “City Stones Sleep”, “Goatsand Hollers”, “Creep Mission” and “Not in a Hall ofMirrors”, ranging from 4:29-5:56 and 16:14-17:59.Extended solo passages serve to keep things on thequiet side while the group explorations have a pleasantway of wandering aimlessly but in sync. The simplerLP package here comes with a cover painting byMazurek dedicated to late fellow trumpeter Bill Dixonand both Underflow titles are available for streamingin full on Bandcamp.
If there’s any time to expect Gustafsson ragingwith the throttle open, it’s in a meeting with Japanesenoisemeister Merzbow. Backing by powerhouseHungarian drummer Balázs Pándi would seem to sealthe deal, which is what makesCuts Openthe biggestsurprise of the three. It’s not that the four long tracks(filling four sides of a double-LP and also available onCD and download) are so easy to receive, but theydon’t hit as hard, more a walk in complete darknessthan freefall or rocket blast and indeed not as hard ason their 2013 sessionCuts(also RareNoise). It’s easilythe most unnerving of the three titles here, all the moreso for its rounded edges.
For more information, visit underflowrecords.com and