...A group who bring together influences as disparate as Albert Ayler and The Stooges.
Tom Barlow 2007
There is nothing remotely ‘silent’ about Euro/US alliance Original Silence. Raw noise, sonic shocks, chaos and cacophony abound. But silence: no. Leaving behind all notions of melody, this is a turbo charged collision between punk-metal and free jazz: a super-band, concocted by Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, which is defiant in its lack of compromise.
The Oslo-based Smalltown Superjazz is one of the most exciting indie labels in jazz. Yet Original Silence might be their most daring project yet – a group who bring together influences as disparate as Albert Ayler and The Stooges.
Alongside Gustavsson on sax, the band unites Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston More with avant-jazz drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, metal bassist Massimo Pupillo (The Zu) and guitar slinger Terrie Ex (The Ex). Over two extended, free-jams (one at 14 minutes, the other over 45) the members stretch into blisteringly ugly improvisation. Easy to admire, difficult to listen to, the audience at this live recording in Italy in 2005 must have had stamina galore.
The opener, '‘If Light Has No Age, Time Has No Shadow'’ sets out the group’s free-jam agenda promisingly: surreal, distorted sound effects and guitar jabs compete alongside kitwork from Nilssen-Love and strangled sax screeches from Gustafsson. Initially, these simultaneous experiments feel like a hardcore cousin of Acoustic Ladyland. Intense yet incoherent, however, they lack musicality and frequently veer into self-indulgence.
Nilssen-Love is an excellent drummer and brings the most music to the set. Yet the corrugated iron guitars, multiphonic sax and effects-laden noise are tough going. Even as the epic second track, '‘In the Name of the Law'’, breaks into more subtle, thoughtful exchanges (after 20 minutes), and as Gustavsson works lyrical Coltrane-laden wails into the mix, the experience is more an act of endurance than pleasure.
The musical equivalent of nails scratching a blackboard, or a heavy-metal twist on free-jazz’s most otherworldly excursions? Either way, Original Silence is not for lily-livered listeners.