The Wire , May 2008
The Tarfala Glacier at the foot of Sweden’s highest mountain Kebnekaise is melting at alarming speed. Put it down to global warming, but I like to think that some of the heat generated 600 miles further south in the city of Västeräs in 2006 is also to blame. These for mighty slabs of Improv featuring Mats Gustafsson, Barry Guy and Raymond Strid, will all but melt your speaker cones.
BBC Music Magazine , April 2008
Even 41 years ago, when I was first dazzled by his playing with the Howard Riley trio, it was difficult to envisage how Guy could get any better; but he has gone on deepening and broadening his talent. These four exemplary and wide-ranging improvisations find him partnering one of the world’s most original and exhilarating saxophonists and an imaginative and responsive percussionist. The music takes us from murmurous echoes of underground streams to volcanic cataclysms, spearheaded by Gustafsson’s searing yet many-shaded reeds, rivalling the legendary Peter Brötzmann for ferocity. The trio’s command of their instruments’ possibilities is such that one sometimes “hears” phantom instruments, such as guitar, piano or a second horn. In places this is achieved by techniques of the kind that Bach (and Evan Parker) would use to create a kind of false counterpoint; elsewhere it is simply the intensity of the music producing mirages for the ear. A superb, savage beauty of an album. Performance ***** Sound *****
Tarfala by Hans-Jürgen von Osterhausen
HIilfreich sind sie, Barry Guys Worte im Begleittext, dass diese Musik den Begriff “terroirs” erfüllt, dass sie zu tun hat mit dem Zusammentreffen von Erlebnissen der schwedischen Natur und den Klangvorstellungen dieser drei Musiker. Auch Mats Gustafsson hilft weiter, wenn er sich zwar grundsätzlich gegen solche romantisierenden Verbildlichungen verwahrt, sie aber in diesem Fall des Konzertes aus dem schwedischen Västeräs nicht verneinen kann. Mögen diese Worte den Einstieg erleichtern, so lebt doch die Musik ihre eigenen Bilder, romantisch poetische wie auch gewaltige Anstrengungen, die man vielleicht auch beim Ersteigen eines wilden Berges erleben darf. Die Kunst und Ausdruckskraft dieser drei aussergewöhnlichen Musiker ist es, die dies möglich macht, vor allem Barry Guys unendlich scheinende Vielfalt von Klangakkorden zu nicht endenden Läufen, der Kontrabass als ganz eigener Klangkosmos, der hier in vielerlei Hinsicht herausgefordert wird. Mats Gustafssons Sprache lässt nichts aus, klingt anzüglich in den rauhen Bereichen seines Bariton, aber sehr versöhnlich mit den stillen Sopranino-Klängen. Und Strids Donnersprache, fein in ihren Verästelungen und zwingend in den gewaltigen Bögen treibt alles immer wieder zusammen. Was ein Glück, einen solchen Augenblick zu erleben, über eine Stunde intensivster Kommunikation und vier Titeln mit entsprechenden Namen wie “Tarfala”, “Taku”, “Icefall” und “Porphyr”. Grenzen hat diese grosse Improvisationskunst nicht. Man muss sie für sich schon selbst setzen oder auch nicht, in dem man sich ihr ganz überlässt.
Tarfala by Mark Corroto
I've read interviews with jazz musicians that have told of their first hearing John Coltrane's LP A Love Supreme (Impulse!,1964) and their seemingly inability to turn over the vinyl and play the second side, fearing that it would not compare to the first side. This listener had a similar experience listening to the first (and title) track of this recording. Clocking in at more than twenty seven minutes, it is an entire meal in itself, leaving one satisfied or wondering if the remaining thirty minutes of music could possibly be as good.
I tell you this, because for the past week I was unable to listen past the first track. And yet, I was thoroughly satiated.
The trio of Barry Guy (bass), Mats Gustafsson (sax), and Raymond Strid (percussion) might be looked upon as a substitute for the infamous Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton trio. But great listeners shouldn't miss this ensemble. The two Swedes, Gustafsson and Strid form a similar improvising trio called GUSH with Sten Sandell, and have played with Guy in some of his various ensembles. These three have in fact recorded together. In 1994 they made a disc You Forgot To Answer (Maya), and good luck finding that one.
The title track bears all the fruits of a free-thinking sax/bass/drums session. Gustafsson, the nu-new thing superstar sounds like a DNA spliced offspring of Evan Parker and Peter Brotzmann. He can play the quietest breath key taps where listeners lean forward in their seats to hear to the full metal blasts of Brotzmann's—Machine Gun (FMP,1968)—violence. On the title track he gives us his all with Strid and Guy encouraging his exploits. The energy swells and recesses, popping circuits off the listener’s receptors even in the quietest moments.
The much quieter and reflective “Taku” finds Mats switching between saxophone and fluteophone, Guy bending notes in this quasi-ambient setting. As the track progresses, and unravels into a more outward direction, the three stick to small gestures and restraint. The tension building is symbolic of their confident approach. The other relatively quiet track is the jittery interplay on “Porphyr,” with a slowly building intensity of Strid's percussion ramblings into solid cymbal work and drumming. Gustafsson blows a marathon baritone saxophone as blunt object of choice.
Listening to the tapes of this live concert from Culturen Västerås, persuaded me that certain attributes of the playing of Mats Gustafsson and Raymond Strid are indeed bound with “Terroir”. There is probably a useful Swedish word describing this, but the French word nevertheless seems appropriate in describing a sense of place, something earthy and powerful.
My thoughts moved to volcanoes and in particular glaciers, which of course abound in Sweden. The explosive power of the volcano leaving behind often exquisite settlements of minerals and crystals and the inexorable slide of the glacier, sometimes tearing, other times honing, but always moving in a solid mass onwards, expresses my feelings for these musicians way of playing. But there is lightness within this weight and solidity, which in a way reflects the transparent and crystalline structures that we witness in these two earthly formations of volcano and glacier.
Hot and cold.
The music on this album wells up from the joy of working together, with our singular energies coalescing to reflect the heat of engagement and the coolness of the open space around us.
Reading Barry's notes from the session made me think a little about what it is that makes me often uncomfortable with music texts that allude to nature.
I guess we have all been reading too many texts where the connection/link moves towards the esoteric where an often overtly “romantic” strain is pursued.
And why is it that Barry’s text really takes me towards another direction?
Well - maybe because this time I feel the power is hitting me in the stomach!
I have no idea what we were eating and drinking that day in Lennart Nilsson’s rockin’ and dynamic club in the old industrial town of Västerås, but for sure there was a different kind of music coming out of our instruments that night!
Listening back to it makes me wanna dance, scream and fly (all at once, of course) The flow, the flooooow and the brutal energy of the music just makes me smile (and I tell you, listening back to my own music usually doesn’t make me wanna smile that often), and smile for a long time.
And I can now clearly see the connection that Barry is talking about. Of course! It’s all there!
After making so many trips to the Lappish mountains of Sweden every summer in my grown up life, it’s all there!
I’ve been walking around the mighty Kebnekajse mountain twice and around the corner, the powerful Storglaciären in the Tarfala nature. There are no words to describe the emotions that move inside you when you are so close to the power and flow of nature! Unreal! Without this overwhelming sense of sheer beauty and power of Mother Nature I would never be able to recharge my batteries - batteries that can become of use meeting the volcano power flow of Mr. Guy and Mr. Strid! This is the shit!
I thank you Barry and Ray for sharing those musical moments with me and taking me further towards my roots in the Västerbotten nature, where the old dark forest meets the clear glacial waters, gushing out of the mighty mountains.
(I can’t believe that I am writing such a text involving the nature in the making of this music - but, what the f**k, either the old dog learnt how to sit or I actually found out something very valid inside of myself? And why not sharing that with some others? There is always time for something new, right? )