OffOnOff is a new experimental trio piloted by the prolific Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. Their album debut, Clash, is out now, a record that motions towards metal and hardcore in its emphasis on energy, intensity and aggression. But at the same time it contradicts other defining traits of these genres, making the record a hybrid and a mongrel; a platform for realising music that does not belong in any category.
By Carl Christian Johansen/ Translated and abridged by Christian Lysvåg
For those who know Nilssen-Love as a Grammy winner in the jazz category, Clash will widen the perception of the range of his activities. The musical pendulum of Nilssen-Love oscillates from free jazz and improvisation in projects like Atomic and Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tenet, to metal-oriented projects like Original Silence and now OffOnOff.
The Thing, Nilssen-Love’s trio with Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten and Mats Gustafsson, have over the past few years been in close contact with the Italian ensemble Zu, featuring Massimo Pupillo on bass. Zu’s expression is a kind of free jazz inspired by the American thrash metal band Slayer.
In OffOnOff Pupillo joins forces with Nilssen-Love along with the Dutchman Terrie Ex who belongs to the punk-oriented band Ex. The common denominator between The Thing, Zu and Ex is that they all push the genre concepts to such a degree that it is more a matter of descriptions of abandoned points of departure than categorical definition. OffOnOff is the synthesis of these three musicians and a creature of their common notion of genre-less, unrestrained and in that way “purified” expression.
Fundamentally it is improvised music. Clash is comprised of the typical fragmented plucking, the sound exploration and the general instrumental experimentation that characterizes improvised music. But these traits are conveyed within a highly energized format with emphasis on rhythmic expanses.
Nilssen-Love’s drumming reminds of the patterns of rock. In amalgam with Ex’s and Pupillo’s relentless bass and guitar riffs – filtered through amplifiers, effects and sooty rock gestalts, the result is music that reaches out towards metal and hardcore. Yet this project is exclusively about the musical expression itself - it is void of attitude and statement - and Clash is as direct and unmediated as any studio live recording can hope to be. The energy is immense; it is one of those records to have been recorded “in red,” no doubt, and the album’s unequivocal and extreme nature is definite testimony to the remarkable diversity of Paal Nilssen-Love.
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums
Terrie Ex: electric guitar
Massimo Pupillo: electric bass
Clash is out on Smalltown Superjazz.