Death Shanties - Nunatak (4 stars)

Death Shanties - Nunatak

Free jazz outfit featuring Alex Neilson, Sybren Renema and Lucy Stein

(Self-released CD-R)

When Alex Neilson launched his folk-rock project Trembling Bells, he spoke of having fallen out of love with improvisation, preferring to focus on songwriting. Five years on, the drummer fervently reconnects with free music, unleashing Death Shanties, a free jazz trio featuring painter Lucy Stein, whose live abstractions are projected while Neilson and saxophonist Sybren Renema blast away. While that third element becomes a ghost on record, Nunatak successfully captures the emergent group’s rough-hewn sound. Less punk-primitive than Neilson’s previous free jazz outfit Tight Meat, Death Shanties jive on the weird synergy between Neilson and Renema, finding room for snatches of folk and blues amidst the exploded forms. Neilson’s singular rhythmic conceptions see him eschewing bop-like fluidity for lopsided clatter and avant-caveman stomps, while Renema coaxes sounds both tender and bloody from his baritone and alto horns. Scottish free jazz rises again.

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