Werl documents a supercharged powerhouse in action, one that came from the meeting of the guitars and FX of Aidan Baker (of Nadja and also Hypnodrone Ensemble, Caudal, etc) with the heavyweight percussion of Tomas Järmyr (from Zu, Barchan and Yodok in various forms). The album stretches to over an hour and half of music across eight tracks on two CDs, allowing the duo plenty of space in which to improvise among and around the frontiers of the known instrumental universe.
The pairing of Järmyr with Baker is a fearsome one. That paint-scalding guitar tone familiar from the latter’s soaring brand of avant-shoegaze metal in Nadja is deployed here in spades. It can be felt almost viscerally, lifting off weightlessly from the outset of “Werl I” as Järmyr crashes, clunks and thunders his way around the drumkit in a chaostrophy of free improv drumming that rattles the very bones of the opening track. After this, things can only of course go still further out.So they do, spinning headlong into passages where the feedback and the percussive roil blend and divide into a recurrent maelstrom of varied and frequently extraordinary proportions. Their interactions shimmer with the coruscating energy of a thousand particles in collision one moment, sputtering almost reluctantly into spasmodic afterglows, perhaps gleefully serving up teeth-grinding metallic stick-scrapes the next or winnowing away into extended slow-cycling, skull-scouring drones among itchy drum-brushed sussurus. The duo are likewise equally content to sprawl among the looping down-thrusts of a distended bassy guitar tone and the rippling clangour of cymbal strokes as they are to follow the sedate progression of whammy bar regression into cosmic distortion pedal invocations, firing up the mighty elemental forces of total noise rock abandon one more ear-flensing time. Werl flows coherently and cogently from one raucous scratchpost guitar and clattergun rattlefest into another. Every so often it becomes necessary to remember that there are only two musicians making this magnificent racket, such is the intensity and particular breadth of the soundscape the pair create together. The level of concentration and stamina on display here is often palpable, and the exertion both muscular and mental is occasionally exhausting just to listen to; so it can only be surmised just how much sweat and energy went into the music’s creation. Likewise, their technique is exemplary, the ego-free interplay of sounds bearing witness to their dedication and ability to both listen and develop their shared direction together in harmony (and indeed, discordance and noise) while almost physically inhabiting their collective sound, so well do Järmyr and Baker work together.
It’s an often-opined conclusion that freely improvised music in its many forms is infinitely – occasionally this is even expresses as exclusively – preferable live to on record; perhaps this is often so. But while it would undoubtedly be astonishing to witness Baker and Järmyr making this music in the flesh, Werl is a more than adequate – some might go so far as to say a mind-blowing – substitute for what can only be a full-tilt experience in person.