By Mike Shanley
As they continue to rerelease the remnants of a back catalog of artistic highs and fascinating lows that made the world, uh, safe for independent music, the folks behind 50-plus-year-old label ESP-Disk’ also have a desire to document the modern day explorers. Like the label’s original credo stated, the artists alone still decide what goes on their release, and it doesn’t go down any easier today than it did in 1965.
Tiger Hatchery, a trio from Chicago, fits in the lineage of free jazz squonk that launched ESP, but their m.o. is born more out of a love of pure noise than the extreme blues and spiritual elements of Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders or Marion Brown. “Chieftain” kicks off the album with the kind of gale force that blows the unsuspecting listener across the room if the volume knob is set too high. Ben Billington’s drums pummel and scatter. Mike Forbes’ tenor saxophone fights its way through the melee, screaming and wailing. Don’t expect an opening theme, just a propellant. But while the group likes to crank up to eleven, they also enjoy pulling back. Three-quarters of the way through “Chieftain,” they break and resume quietly, like they’ve begun another track. But when Andrew Scott Young’s distorted bass dives in a few minutes toward the end, he performs a double deed. He brings the dynamics full circle and his metallic strings sound like some dismembered riff that has retained just enough shape to give the whole thing dimension. Forbes unleashes some late-era Coltrane riffs that present enough of an acknowledgment to jazz side of things too.
When it comes to dynamics, the 15-minute “Grand Mal” actually requires the volume to be cranked to capture the percussive clinks and sax splats that gradually build in frequency — more than once. Young doubles on bass guitar and upright bass, using both to produce subtle but significant nuances in the music. This album follows another unique ESP tradition: it’s over in less than 30 minutes. By then, when Brown’s bowing brings us back to the ground, structure can be felt where once there was chaos. What seemed hard to swallow now leaves a pleasant aftertaste.
DOWNLOAD: “Chieftain,” “Sonic Bloom.”