James Plotkin: guitar; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums
James Plotkin is not new to interacting with a drummer, as established by 2006’s 8 Improvisations with Tim Wyskida – a decidedly underestimated, and essentially unacknowledged release – and, specially, by the legendary Terminal Velocity (2012) with Jon Mueller. Still, you may find yourselves just half-prepared to the compelling effectiveness of Death Rattle, which could turn a “slumberous Monday morning” dispirited commuter into a remorseless headbanging beast ready to chew whatever good ear Evander Holyfield has been left with.
Plotkin emphasizes a reversal of roles of sorts in the written introduction: Nilssen-Love’s viciously lopsided impulses (matching my own natural functions better than a 4/4, in case of doubts) versus an assumption of pseudo-stability within frames of malformed repetitions and (relative) harmonic steadiness furnished by the American’s abuses on his axe’s physical kernel. Accurate, but only in part. Any pair of proficient receptors – especially those that deal with heavily processed sonorities – cannot fail to realize how the maladjusted tones and shapes generated by the guitarist give a valid explanation about the name of his “Atomsmasher” project. Amidst monumentally grumbling low frequencies, erosive upper partials and spirals of twisted chords, the annihilating corpulence of a given timbre gets occasionally masticated and then violently spit, its remnants appearing as nocturnal lights from tracer ammo. Exciting, to say the least, and – despite the advanced level of inflammation – the typical “Plotkin feel”, that hypnotizing wholeness to which one begs to lie in, is there to motivate the “infinite repeat” move.
On the other side of the fence, Nilssen-Love responds with outrageous outbursts bathing in light-sensitive intelligence, but also with episodes of unforeseen quietude where the encephalon gets some respite before starting to miss him dearly (check around the fourth minute of the title track to comprehend what this reviewer means). We were confident in the drummer’s superior class inside the “vigorous improv” arena, made explicit by the blistering plurality of ingenious decisions and “born-and-instantly-dead” non-patterns defining the extremely dynamic climate change throughout the set. And yet, it is amazing to hear the sum of the parts exceeding our prognosis to produce one of the most mood-uplifting albums of 2013 as a result.