Mat Gustafsson/Sonic Youth with friends Hidros 3 Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Swedish improv saxophonist Gustaffson teams up with downtown avant rockers SY and mates.

Martin Longley 2004

Swedish reedsman Mats Gustafsson has written five Hidros works, the other four having been interpreted by the NU-Ensemble and the Copenhagen Arts Ensemble. This third incarnation was specially prepared for an augmented Sonic Youth, featuring (amongst others) guitarist Loren Mazzacane Connors.

Although the disc is divided into separate tracks, Hidros 3 is really one extended piece, with no gaps whatsoever. Dedicated to Patti Smith, it frequently sounds like improvisation rather than composition. The piece was recorded live at its premiere in 2000. The players were housed in small rooms of the Art museum in Ystad, Sweden, during its KulturBro festival. Jim O'Rourke was in charge of the mixing, the only performer capable of filtering the composite whole. The audience were free to wander from chamber to chamber, experiencing various subjective perspectives of the performance.

Hidros 3 begins with a busy guitar latticework, building into a jagged crescendo, then pulling back for a Kim Gordon rap (in the old-fashioned sense of the word). She's painfully flat, and her intermittent text is largely banal. The processed voice of Lindha Kallerdahl is far more engaging, but she doesn't make her mark until the closing stretch. Pinched and yowling through a distorted veil, she's like a trapped evil spirit...

Gustafsson plays contrabass saxophone, but his contribution is also too brief, though staggering enough when it does enter the fray. The massed guitars are possessed with a contrasting range of textures, rubbing at differing surfaces, getting more scabrous by the second, their dense layers sticking together in a dark mass. Eventually, an electro-acoustic quality develops, a sense of pure, displaced crunching, scrunching, twittering and scudding.

When Gustafsson starts honking his massive horn, he's like a wounded mastodon, truly terrifying in his huffing enormity. He's screaming into his mouthpiece, sundering the ears with hacking bass blurts. Should he have played more, or does Mats know the value of leaving his audience pleading for an extension?

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