Boomkat Product Review:
Haino, O'Rourke and Ambarchi's 12th release as a power trio is a testament to the friends' effortless creative communication. Flipping between instruments, they nimbly toy with their hydra-like canon of influences and innovations, swaying from delicate, passionate improv into psych-infused electronix, sinewy post-punk and pulverizing free noise.
Keiji Haino handles snare drum on the opening track of 'With pats on the head...', patting cadaverous rhythms alongside Jim O'Rourke's lively, Derek Bailey-inspired fretwork. The duo don't need anything else - they immediately entrance with their fiery back-and-forth, with O'Rourke periodically dissolving his rhythmic harmonics into American Primitive folk and Haino veering into Han Bennink-style rhythmic wreckage. When Ambarchi joins in with effervescent metallic hisses and tense, booming rhythms on the the second track 'Right brain, left brain...', O'Rourke switches to electronics, layering cavernous drones and blown-out oscillations that point in a very different, but strangely harmonic, direction. Haino grabs the flute at first on 'Critical consciousness...', before going toe-to-toe with Ambarchi on snare that buzzes against the Aussie polymath's rolling kicks and toms.
The lengthy recording was captured in November 2018 at Tokyo's now-defunct Roppongi, and illustrates the rapport the three legends have with each other. They've been performing and recording together for over a decade at this point, and have developed a musical vocabulary that makes their improvisation completely captivating. There's no ego here - each player knows exactly when to make their voice heard as part of a unified whole, and although the album plays remarkably coherently, they seem to approach radically different ideas on each jam. While the first half of the record is bare-bones and subtle, anchored by negative space and pregnant pauses, the second is a blistering, cacophonous blow-out, with Haino yowling on oboe over O'Rourke's high-octane bass riffs and Ambarchi's thrashy rhythms. It feels like stepping into a basement or garage and hearing three old friends simply following their gut, not attempting to re-invent the wheel.
And on 'I can no longer sense...' the trio turn their amps up a few notches, ad-libbing a viscous sonic rampart that straddles the intensity of doom metal and the no-fucks-given spirit of punk. Free improv can all to often suck the life and soul out of music, rigidly adhering to a different set of rules - this set shows just how playful it can be when it's handled sensitively and with 360 degree vision. We all know how good Haino, O'Rourke and Ambarchi are when they're operating solo, and together they're mischievous, energetic and deviously playful. 'With pats on the head...' tumbles through ideas with extraordinary focus, blurring the edges of established concepts and suggesting something different without establishing new borders.