9 Artists and a Treasure Trove on Bandcamp

Not sure how long this has been on Bandcamp, but it’s a cool idea: Nine artists have joined forces to offer a ton of releases under the collective name of Catalytic Sound.


Ab Baars, Mats Gustafsson, Ig Henneman, Terrie Hessels, Joe McPhee, Andy Moor, Paal Nilssen-Love, Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley make up the Catalytic collective.

vandermark-drinkCatalytic Sound was founded in 2011, according to their Facebook page. That’s probably referring to the group’s web site,  which appears to be a vehicle for selling CDs. In fact, much of what’s on the Bandcamp site is available in physical form only — CD or vinyl.

Bandcamp, though, makes it easy for the artists to sell music digitally — which means Catalytic Sound dips deep into into the artists’ back catalogues. That’s the part I’m really excited about. Vandermark, in particular, has stacks of out-of-print 1990s CDs represented — such as Drink Don’t Drown, a live recording from the famed Empty Bottle jazz series in Chicago.

One oldie worth checking out is Caffeine, an obscure trio with Jim Baker on piano and Steve Hunt on drums. It’s one of so many “lost” CDs I remember sampling in the KZSU-FM library.

Combined with the Destination: Out store, which is re-releasing the old FMP catalogue of European improv classics, Catalytic Sound is turning Bandcamp into a dangerous vacuum for discretionary dollars. Not that I’m complaining.

Gustafsson, Minimalist

Mats Gustafsson & Christof KurzmannFalling and Five Other Failings (Trost, 2016)

gustafsson-fallingThese experiments in sound situate Mats Gustafsson, that firebrand of the sax, in minimalist mode — small blips, often repeated in simple percussive fashion, against the often sparse laptop electronics of Christof Kurzmann. It’s a march through a distant alien world of crackles, sine waves, and floating musical notes. The overall effect is sparse — and rewarding, if you’re in the right mood.

“Failing II,” for instance, pits Gustafsson’s restrained high-register scribbles, like the motions of an insect, against swirling, static electronic tones. Kurzmann also reflects some of the saxophone sound back into the mix for a brief spate of multi-tongued babble.

The quiet aesthetic peaks on “Failing IV,” where the clacking of saxophone keys and small, crisp curls of digital sound create a noise-music sotto voce. Similarly, “Failing V” starts off quiet as a hearing test, with Gustafsson trading tiny whispers of melody against small puffs of computerized sound.

Kurzmann does produce a sense of tension and drama, though. “Failing V” eventually introduces a quiet pulse that frees the mood and lets both players get more aggressive (but still quiet). On the less subtle scale is “Failing III,” a saxophone dirge where Kurzman is at first barely audible but gradually ups the volume and the activity (including samples of lonely sax tones) to momentarily overtake the sound.

Five of the tracks are improvisations. The sixth — the one called “Falling” as opposed to “Failing” — has Kurzmann on vocals, singing and speaking in soft, close-miked tones over a strain of electronic tones. It’s slow and atmospheric, but it’s the most aggressive track, in its own drawn-out way.