Death Shanties - Crabs (4 stars)

Death Shanties - Crabs

Trembling Bell Alex Neilson rejoins his ‘balls-to-the-wall free jazz’ project for a more exploratory affair


Glasgow's Death Shanties promise ‘balls-to-the-wall free jazz’, yet Crabs, their first official debut following 2013's self-released Nunatak, is a more exploratory affair than that description suggests. As the panicky squalls of ‘Something in Me Wakes Up Terrified’ attest, saxophonist Sybren Renema can wail, but he generally favours more subtle forms of liberation, blurring tender melodies into metallic bell tones on ‘Stumps’, and opening up Ellington’s ‘Come Sunday’ with spiralling runs and multiphonics.

Drummer Alex Neilson, the mastermind behind folk-rock troupe Trembling Bells, mostly plays with timpani mallets, giving his rolls a dampened, slightly distant tone. Creative overdubbing allows looped saxophones to circle Renema’s alto lead like angry flies in ‘Baby Dodds Is Dead’, while Mike Hastings’ droning guitar, a doleful male chorus, and Lucy Stein’s recitation of a psychosexual dream passage from DM Thomas’ The White Hotel help turn the English folk song 'O! Where is Saint George?' inside out.

Death Shanties

Death Shanties takes free jazz (Alex Neilson on drums and Sybren Renema on alto/baritone sax) and mixes it up with paintings and projections (Lucy Stein) to create a wildly unique live experience.

Post a comment