Press about The Thing

Er zullen weinig cd’s zijn waarop interpretaties te vinden zijn van een compositie van Ornette Coleman naast eentje van Robert Hampson, voorman van de Britse ‘shoegaze’-band Loop. Het geeft wel duidelijk het muzikale credo weer van het Noors/ Zweedse trio The Thing. Heavy rock en punk gaan daarbij namelijk een geslaagd huwelijk aan met extatische freejazz en avontuurlijke vrije improvisaties. Dat de heren daarbij niet weglopen voor een sterke melodie maakt de muziek van The Thing ook voor impro-haters behoorlijk goed te verteren. In stukken als ‘Aim’ en ‘Bota Fogo’ laat saxofonist Mats Gustafsson horen dat hij met zijn majestueuze toon kan betoveren alvorens in de hoogte van zijn sax te klimmen en zich grommend en gierend onder de top van de eigentijdse freejazz-screamers te nestelen. Bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten en drummer Paal Nilssen-Love zorgen hierbij voor de genadeloos voort beukende groove die de muziek van The Thing onweerstaanbaar maakt. En met ‘Shake’ heeft de groep weer een stoer en opwindend statement aan de discografie toegevoegd.
Stewart Smith in the Quietus about SHAKE
The Thing’s Shake [is] another beezer of an album from the Scandinavian trio – perhaps their finest to date. There’s always the worry that their punk-jazz shtick could become a stale gimmick, but Mats Gustaffson, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love have a knack of bringing the noise every time. The sheer energy and physicality of The Thing’s sound is immensely satisfying, fusing the freedom of jazz with the controlled power of rock. When more mainstream jazzers cover rock songs, they tend to work from the melody and chord sequence, an approach that can sound a little glib and underpowered. The Thing, on the other hand, rightly focus on the riff, using it as the basis for improvisation.

 

Phil Freeman, the Wire
The Thing, fresh from a collaboration with singer Neneh Cherry, have returned to their stripped-down, raucous core sound on Boot!, Recorded in three day, the six track album opens with a version of John Coltrane’s “India” that’s primitive in the best possible way: the original’s hypnotic, mantra-like saxophone line becomes, through Mats Gustafsson’s efforts, a blustery cross between a military fanfare and the cry of some enraged ape. Behind him, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love batter their instruments in a manner more akin to garage rock than free jazz. This is The Thing’s modus operandi, unchanged since their emergence in the 1990s. The performance is always intense, leaving only the material up to question. In this case, they tackle Duke Ellington’s “Heaven” in addition to the Coltrane piece and four originals, and it’s one earthquake/windstorm after another for an hour, possibly the group’s best release since 2009’s Bag It!.

Bruce Lee Gallanter of DMG about The Thing & Thurston Moore at the 29th FIMAV New Music Festival in Victoriaville, Canada, May 18, 2013
“The next set was back at the big room at the Colosseum and again, there was much anticipation for The Thing & Thurston Moore. The Thing are a Scandinavian all-star trio featuring Mats Gustafsson on bari & tenor saxes, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on bass and Paal Nilsson-Love on drums. They often add guests like Joe McPhee, Neneh Cherry or Ken Vandermark, but this was the first time I caught them with Thurston Moore. For most of this set, Mr. Moore sat down and played his guitar resting in his lap, concentrating on what he played. The Thing erupted with their own version of free/jazz: intense, focused, over-the-top and extremely exciting. Thurston, who has done his share of improv gigs through the years, took his time and inserted his own noise/rock/sonic weirdness in the explosive blend. The set progressed organically with a handful of strong duos like guitar and bowed bass and bari sax & drums. At one point, Mats played solo bari sax, blasting like a large ship sailing by. Everyone in the band is a master at their instrument and it is great to watch them play, interact and wail together, as well as take some inspired solos on each of their instruments. At one point there set evolved into their own version of Coltrane’s “India”, the throbbing, hypnotic, repeating theme at the center of the cyclone. It was truly a great moment which bridged the gap between avant/jazz and almost punk/rock insanity. They even play what sounds like a pounding punk/rock theme for their encore. An amazing, colossal and cathartic set!”

The Strange & Frightening world of…The Thing – Stewart Smith in The Quietus
(…) The Thing’s music, then, can be located within several jazz traditions: the fire music of Albert Ayler, the sparse atmospherics of Don Cherry’s Mu, the full-blooded European improvisation of Peter Brotzmann, and the brutal ‘snuff-jazz’ of no-wave trio Borbetomagus. But they also have allegiances with noise, avant-rock and punk. Gustafsson has played with Sonic Youth, The Ex and Zu, while Nilssen-Love and Haker Flaten make febrile out-rock with guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim as Scorch Trio. Recently, The Thing have been playing with Neneh Cherry, a collaboration which makes perfect sense considering their debt to her stepfather. (…) Read full article

Guy Peters about The Thing at AB, Brussels, Dec 3, 2010 (in Dutch)
(…) de manier waarop Nilssen-Love steeds dichter tegen de chaos ging aanleunen en de saxofonist steeds dissonanter en wilder ging spelen, was ronduit meesterlijk en liet horen dat aan hun muziek ook een fabuleuze interactie ten grondslag ligt.
(…) de reputatie van ontembare natuurkracht werd volledig waargemaakt. Deze band kan ongetwijfeld voor een WOW!-ervaring zorgen.
Read full article at ‘Draai om je oren’

Andrey Henkin in All About Jazz
One of the most appealing facets of The Thing― saxophonist Mats Gustafsson , bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love ―is the visceral experience of seeing them play live. Huddled closely on stage, wearing matching Ruby’s BBQ of Austin t-shirts, dripping with sweat and manhandling their instruments, the trio is one of the modern wonders of avant-garde jazz.
(…)
But the one problem with The Thing thus far has been that almost none of their albums effectively captured the live experience. 2005’s Garage came close and 2006’s Action Jazz even closer but not until Bag It! has the band’s ferocity been depicted so well in a studio environment. Some of the credit must be given to engineer Steve Albini, of Big Black fame, who highlights the trio’s punk aesthetic with spacious recording that does not sacrifice their ‘gentler’ moments. And Smalltown Superjazzz’s stark design―primarily black and white pictures of the band performing at Ruby’s―is fittingly bleak
Besides the Gustafsson-penned title track and the collective “Hot Doug,” the rest of the first disc of the double CD set continues the group’s penchant for covering songs from outside the jazz canon and doing so with more sincerity than, say, The Bad Plus . But now brutal takes on The Ex (“Hidegen Fujnak A Szelek”) and 54 Nude Honeys (a perky “Drop the Gun”) are elbowing for attention alongside some fascinating interpretations of music by Swedish sound artist Åke Hodell, Duke Ellington’s “Mystery Song” and Albert Ayler’s “Angels.” This album is also the first Thing release to feature Gustafsson indulging his recent taste for electronics. As a bonus, Bag It! comes with a second disc: a 31-minute improvisation, “Beef Brisket (For Ruby’s),” perhaps the first and only free jazz paean to smoked meat.

After almost a decade of playing together, beginning as a Don Cherry cover band, working with guests Joe McPhee , Ken Vandermark , Jim O’Rourke, Thurston Moore , Otomo Yoshihide and even contributing a track to last year’s David Bowie tribute album Life Beyond Mars, The Thing have avoided becoming a static entity. See them live if you can, but if not, turn up Bag It! extra loud and make sure to have plenty of wet wipes handy

Louis Pattison for BBC
The Thing are jazz, but not as you know it. Formed over a decade ago by Scandinavian players Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love to interpret the songs of trumpeter Don Cherry, the outfit has outgrown such humble aims to become something bigger… and heavier. Across approaching a dozen releases, the influence of some of free jazz’s most fiery performers – the likes of Peter Brotzmann and Albert Ayler – have intermingled with a grounding in rock ‘n’ roll, resulting in covers of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White Stripes and Lightning Bolt and a headbang-friendly dynamic that appeals outside jazz circles.

For new album, Bag It!, The Thing have chosen an unlikely sort of foil – veteran engineer Steve Albini, who has in the past made his distaste for jazz quite clear. Actually, though, the pairing of The Thing’s visceral playing and Albini’s raw analogue production style has resulted in what might be the band’s strongest recording yet. Hidgen Fujnaka A Szelek, a cover of Dutch anarcho-punk outfit The Ex, is a raging opening, Gustafsson’s wailing, melancholic sax opening cutting the ribbon on a blazing three-way interplay of grinding fuzz bass and dashed drums, jagged bursts of skronk baritone sax and off-microphone shouts. The following Drop The Gun, a cover of Japanese punk band 54 Nude Honeys, meanwhile, commences with racing riffs and spry drums, but gradually picks up mass, Gustafsson setting down saxophone and slaking the rhythm section with broiling electronics.

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