Mats Gustafsson & the Nu Ensemble
Hidros One for nine improvisers, tape & conductor
Recorded live Oct. 30, 1997 at Studio 2, Radiohuset, Stockholm.
Mixed and mastered July 6 and August 20, 1999 at K3, Radiohuset, Stockholm.
Tape piece recorded Feb 2, 1996 outside Jokkmok. Mixed and mastered Sep 26, 1997 at Alice Musik Studios, Gustavsberg.
Hidros One marked a major, very encouraging step in the career of Swedish multi-reed threat Mats Gustafsson. Always an impressive player, even when his technique came close to overshadowing his persona, his composition for nine improvisers and tape shows a level of maturity and depth of conception that placed him in the forward ranks of those seeking to reconcile the lessons of free jazz with the burgeoning field of post-AMM improvisation. Barry Guy's appearance in the ensemble implies that the great bassist's work with his own London Jazz Composers Orchestra may have been a direct influence, as Gustafsson's approach seems tangentially similar, albeit drifting more in an electro-acoustic direction. In nine movements, it begins with very sparse, whispery sounds gradually escalating to what, in many hands, would be a free noise barrage. Here, very unexpectedly, the band segues into a gorgeous descending melodic line that Guy would undoubtedly love for his own. This splinters into more quiet blips, rises again to some impassioned screeching, subsides into a tape section sounding like the crunching of cold snow beneath hiking boots, melds into a delightful cellos/tuba dialogue, and so on, with a rich melodic aura never too far away, if rarely explicitly stated. Much of the composition is quiet and airy, with thoughtful improvisations by all involved, though tubaist Holmlander stands out in this regard and Guy takes a solo during the seventh movement that has one fearing for his fingers. It closes dramatically with delicate trumpet playing by Axel Dorner gradually becoming submerged by prepared piano and Chinese gongs. The initial theme reappears and the band takes it out full force (with pipe organ!), riding some seriously furious percussion by Strid. Hidros One is a mature, masterful work and an early highlight of Gustafsson's career.
All Music Guide