For the Roskilde festival in 2018 Paal Nilssen-Love constructed two musical ensembles, with four Brazilian musicians in one and four Japanese musicians in the other, with his own drum and percussion work and Kiko Dunucci’s electric guitar the common factors between the two. Although reading deeper into the cast list does seem to reveal that many of the musicians are labelled ‘Brazilian’ and ‘Japanese’ as honorary terms, their actual nationalities vary and generally they appear to be pals from Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit work. Consequently, if you are expecting an exercise in contrasts here- fire and ice, yin and yang between the two ensembles- you will be very disappointed.
Both ensembles were recorded live, doing 45-minute sets on consecutive days, and the two results are now been released in parallel. It sounds more like the set-up for some sort of TV music talent content (“who will win? Vote now!”) but in effect what you get is a pair of noisy, impulsive, experimental live avantgarde-jazz-recordings, two for the price of… erm… two.
With a recording quality that’s very decent for a festival but not fully studio-standard and some quite traditional electric instrument set-ups, it’s got a strong flavour of 70’s prog rock wig-out, with long mostly-instrumental tracks in which the performers riff off each other’s both gradual and sudden changes in tone, holding each other in suspense and almost goading each other towards the eventual crescendo of furious slamming, crescendo and discord that the path of each track leads to.
In the Brazilian set-up, the shorter piece “Rural Rides” is notable for having a vocal- Brazilian language I assume- which gives just a little bit more structure and serves as a kind of mid-set plateau of sorts. The finale “Pick A Time”, beginning with an astutely long squeaky solo impulse before crashing into the full-on band maximum, is certainly a crowd-pleaser as well.
The resulting difference in the Japanese set-up is fairly modest, but if anything it’s a touch more insular, with longer pieces and longer build sections that value complexity slightly more and attitude slightly less. The charmingly titled “Eats, Shites and Leaves” exhibits a quirky and marginally more electronic tone, before the zombie impressions of “The Bone People” that evolve into strained threatening Japanese screaming somehow manage to sound both sinister and fun simultaneously. The cacophonous finale of the ironically named “Birdsong” strongly parallels the finale of the sister release as well.
Fans of the original wave of 70’s prog rock and its more extreme, noisy and cutting-edge moments will certainly lap this up, but people looking for something a little more progressive (in the 21st century sense) or expecting interesting or informative results from the Brazilian / Japanese parallel concept may feel a bit short-changed.