Personnel: Rebecca Sneddon (alto saxophone); Colin Stewart (electric bass); Paul Archibald (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Eraldo Bernocchi.
Recording information: Gorbals Sound, Glasgow (09/2013).
Awakening of a Capital is the debut full-length by Edinburgh's Free Nelson Mandoomjazz. Their first two EPS -- 2013's Saxophone Giganticus and 2014's The Shape of Doomjazz to Come -- were reissued as a two-fer. This power trio, comprising alto saxophonist Rebecca Sneddon, electric bassist Colin Stewart, and drummer Paul Archibald, is equally versed in post-'60s free jazz and metal; in particular, post-Black Sabbath doom metal (they even covered the pioneering rock act's signature tune on their first EP). To the uninitiated, these two genres may seem an unlikely sonic pairing, but this band, with a thorough grounding in both musics, makes them quite complementary. The brief, skronky opener "Sunn Ra)))" creates the bridge between the droning bass throb heaviness of Sunn 0))) and Marshall Allen's brilliant improvising with Sun Ra. It quickly gives way to the snail pace of "The Stars Unseen," and here the connection begins to make real sense: the slow, shuffling snare, bass drum, and hi-hat create the space for Sneddon to begin stating and restating the tune's simple theme before Stewart's bassline finds its own way through that melody. As it goes on, he adds layers of distortion, the drums get heavier, and Sneddon heads straight outside with a solo that is equal parts Peter Brötzmann and a young John Zorn. The tempo increases slightly and she becomes more frenetic before the entire tune just blasts apart and dissolves. "The Land of Heat and Greed" has a more insistent, uptempo drum and bass groove, and the rhythm section knots it up a bit before Sneddon hits the high register in her solo and then engages in segments of angular prog-like notation between solos. The tortoise-like pace and uneasy melodicism of "The Pillars of Dagon" offer bowed bass, a two-note vamp for a melody, and sparse tom-toms before scraping noise wreaks havoc on the center, but it returns to the void from whence it came soon thereafter. "Erich Zann" (named no doubt for the H.P. Lovecraft story, The Music of Erich Zann) may be the set's best track. It commences as an economical, slightly distorted, atmospheric bass jam, but then Sneddon's alto enters. Even when she is playing elongated single notes, her utterance is imbued with emotion. She bids the listener gently into what becomes a maelstrom of doomy riffing, thundering kick drums, bashed cymbals, and a menacing bassline. The altoist alternates between free jazz and bluesy expression as the tune moves through several more sections before winding its way back to the beginning. Awakening of a Capital may not be for everyone -- particularly more staid jazz fans -- but it does strike the sweet spot for those who enjoy their inventive music with sharp edges. Free Nelson Mandoomjazz not only come on strong here, they deliver. ~ Thom Jurek