Review from The Wire

Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides occupy the same liminal zone between free jazz and abstract sound as Flaherty/Corsano. The duo of drummer Pascal Nichols (recent stalwart of the UK underground scene as a member of  groups like Stuckometer, Uboat and Neon Tempal) and flautist Kelly Jones play a form of improvised music that references many totemic fire music sources -John Coltrane’s LSD-inspired masterpiece Om, the classic Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell Mu sessions or, more specifically, Cherry’s soundtrack to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain -while subverting them with a punk primitive attack that owes as much to Leeds’s drone pioneers Vibracathedral Orchestra as it does to the Fluxus-inspired ritual of Japan’s Taj Mahal Travellers.

Nichols is a studied post-Corsano conceptualist, tackling his stripped down kit with a non-stop gush of ideas. I’ve seen him play several times of the past few years and always enjoyed it, while feeling that he occasionally suffered from the attention-deficit logic of the Improv neophyte, abandoning textural gambits after mere seconds, unable to follow an idea through to the end before googling his way out or modifying his attack via a bucketful of gimmicks. On this recording it’s hard to remember the Nichols of old. He sits out for long periods of time, occasionally ornamenting the attack with bowed skins or gong tones, and when he does pick it up, he makes directly for its heart, marching beautiful statements of time heading into Jones’s flute instants. Jones is best known as a member of the less than inspiring Cooper-Jones folk duo but her playing here is sublime. She combines breathy, reflective phrasing with a grunting one-lung style that is as heavenly as it is simplistic, birthing the kind of revelatory, pre-articulate ugh that would connect the devotional sound of Popol Vuh with the body raunch of Arthur Doyle.

Although the music is improvised, Jones never seems lost for ideas; her focus is melodic, hyper-concise, and she works revenant echoes of ethnic motifs into the mix without ever falling into the shamen-in-tie-dyed-pyjamas schtick of so many would-be jazz ’mystics.’ And for all its punk credentials, the bulk of the music is quiet, introspective, zoned. Across the space of four tracks in 44 minutes there are long periods of silence barely illuminated by Jones’s fluttering shakuhachi-like tone, displaying the kind of weighty, minimalist logic of Japanese ’rock ’n’ roll shakuhachi’ player Sabu Orimo. It’s jazz in terms of the organisational hierarchy that it’s filtered through, it’s psychedelic in that it’s keyed to an unusual feel for time and space, and it’s punk in that it refuses any previous mode of getting there. So is it punk jazz? This time, just maybe.

David Keenan

The Wire