AMN Reviews: Nelson / Dahl / Podgurski – GRID (2017; NNA Tapes)

Mixing free-jazz and sludge-metal isn’t new any more, but is always worth a listen for this reviewer. Here, we have the debut from Matt Nelson on sax, Tim Dahl on bass, and Nick Podgurski on drums. While many jazz recordings that contend to be “free” are actually a combination of composed lines and open-ended improv, this trio seems to be all-out spontaneous.

Nelson’s sax screeches and wails over Dahl’s distorted bass. Both make use of feedback and loops to add texture as well as multiple tracks. In particular, Dahl’s contributions could easily be mistaken for electric guitar, given their higher registers. Podgurski’s style runs Han-Bennink-meets-Balazs-Pandi, using percussion as a third lead instrument instead of a rhythmic device.

Rather than set forth lines or themes, Nelson, Dahl, and Podgurski provide layers of heavy atmospheres tempered by extended techniques, effects, and angular soloing. Ponderous, deliberate doom passages are interspersed with grinding and staggered drumming. The jazz elements are mostly hidden behind dirty physicality of Nelson’s contributions. Perhaps the most compelling parts of GRID are when Nelson and Dahl set forth dueling drones over Podgurski’s subtle, pseudo-random bashing.

If Mats Gustaffson and Keiji Haino played with Sunn O))), it probably would not be far from this. A dark, gritty set that explores the unexpected.