Photograph of Paal Nilssen-Love

Photograph of Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten

Photograph of Mats Gustafsson
Somnambule - Writing About Music

The Thing

Barden’s Boudoir, 5th June 2005

The Thing are a trio comprising veteran Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Norwegians Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and bassist Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten. Those last two form a stellar rhythm section, having formed the backbone of a number of key recordings including Atomic and Scorch Trio as well as tonight’s configuration. All three men play with remarkable energy, their faces twisted in concentration, limbs flying and sweat dripping. Gustafsson plays like a man possessed. Strike that. He plays like a virtuous, though surprisingly muscular, priest trying to control a possessed baritone saxophone. If that sounds humorous, it’s less of a joke if you’re crouched down at the very front of the stage as he struggles to hold onto the saxophone while playing bellowing, guttural solos that combine striking subtlety with scarily neanderthal impulses. The sensible thing to do would be to retreat from the onslaught, but it’s not really an option – the music demands to be experienced unreservedly. If you’re going to go, better to do so in the path of a speeding locomotive careening off the rails than under a milkfloat, surely. Within a couple of numbers Nilssen-Love has to swap out snare drums, the brief pause allows the other two a momentary, red-faced respite. Nilssen-Love’s playing is a pleasure, combining real muscularity with a strong sense of dynamism and drama. At one point, The Thing remind me of Naked City, but where that group played fast, furious, but pristine, The Thing are sweaty, bare-knuckled and extremely expert bruisers. Their music is a visceral cross between the bellow of a dying brontosaurus and the fatal, pinpoint accuracy of a sniper rifle.
Colin Buttimer
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