While the recent Gustafsson album Bengt saw the prolific saxophonist working with extreme restraint, here with the Norwegian trio Ich Bin N!ntendo he is doing anything but. A short, but fierce live performance captured and mastered by Lasse Marhaug, it lurks somewhere between free jazz, punk, and noise and makes for a unique, if slightly painful experience.
Broken into three tracks totaling about a half hour, the fidelity of the recording is rough at best, but the rawness adds to the overall feel to the album. "Start First" launches right in, its shrill brittle guitar distortion cuts like a dull serrated knife. Between that, the clapping drums, and piercing horns, intense barely begins to describe it. With the acidic sax and overdriven bass, it vacillates between chaos and order, occasionally locking nicely into taut grooves that resemble a messier version of John Zorn's Painkiller.
"End" oddly sits in the middle, and at only three minutes it jumps right in as an explosion of sound, wasting no time getting down to business. It briefly settles into an understated groove, but that hardly lasts long. "Second" actually makes up more than half of the disc, and demonstrates a bit more organization to the performance. Opening up with extended guitar riffs, the drums, bass, and sax eventually come into more of a shamble rather than a blast. The quartet actually slows down a bit here and there though, opening up the mix a bit to allow more subtle, echoing guitar passages, but still retaining that scorched earth, burnt out quality to it. Subtlety is of course relative here, and even at that it does not stay calm for long, quickly going back into the full on noise skronk to finish out the performance with the same intensity it started with.
Overall the collaboration may sound like a free jazz album, but the combination of the performance and the appropriately nasty recording quality give it much more of a fitting, snotty edge, which comes together quite well. Given the juxtaposition of Gustafsson's earlier work this year, it definitely shows his range of playing, and the Ich Bin N!ntendo members, who I am otherwise not familiar with, manage to hold their own nicely in this brilliantly unhinged work.