barrel fire w Gord Grdina Trio

Apr.20, 2011

the new CD w Gord Grdina Trio + Mats Gustafsson” Barrel Fire” has got shitloads of reviews lately…and a short canadian tour is coming up in june…

it will be something else….



Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson, “Barrel Fire”

April 18, 2011

By Mike Griffin

“Barrel Fire” was recorded live in 2009 in Vancouver, a document of a fiery collaboration between the Gord Grdina Trio and Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson.  Grdina’s trio consists of guitar, bass, and drums, but in this live set their music mixes elements from jazz and no wave, with a little bit of punk rock for energy and a little bit of ancient folk music tossed in for unexpectedly sharp seasoning.

Gustafsson’s acrobatic screech and bluster fit in perfectly with the Grdina Trio’s cascading and furious sounds.  On “F.W.R.” Grdina’s guitar possesses a stinging, nasty tone, mixing a great, unadorned Telecaster sound with fluid, dissonant, and spectacularly fast runs.  Gustafsson matches Grdina step for step, while drummer Kenton Loewen pushes the tempo relentlessly.  Grdina is no mere chop-tastic player; noise and distortion lurk at the margins of his precise riffing in a way that I have not often heard among jazz guitar players.  His amazing intro to “Burning Bright” segues into a headpart that owes as much to Captain Beefheart as it does to Ornette Coleman, and then Grdina yields the floor to Gustafsson for another crisp and intelligent solo.  When Grdina rejoins the fray Gustafsson blazes away next to him, while bassist Tommy Babin circles around the two soloists like a wary innocent bystander hoping to avoid carnage before taking a solo of his own.  It’s stirring stuff, and the band’s ability to infuse jazz with this sort of manic skronk is not something I’ve encountered much beyond bands like Ultralyd, Universal Congress of, or John Zorn during his Naked City and Painkiller era.  Grdina’s willingness to hammer away on one note in true primitivist fashion is rare in a guitarist who has such deep technique, but it lends a simple and effective explosiveness to the end of “Burning Bright” that would be lost under a cloud of notes if it were played otherwise.

“229? brings sonic heat as well; drummer Loewen is given a spot to display some skill before the band launches into an idiosyncratic take on a more traditional piece.  Gustafsson leads things off again with another effective solo, flying around Loewen and Babin’s sped-up walk before Grdina takes his turn after a return to the song’s head.  The engines speed up, picks are shredded, fingernails torn, and the trio rides the piece to its outro in heavy fashion, before Babin gently ends things with a solo bass part.  “En Shakoota” is the gem here for me, as Grdina exchanges his electric guitar for an oud, and lays down a lengthy, dust-swept, and lonesome-sounding intro.  The contrast between the oud’s delicate tones to the round and spiky Telecaster is dramatic and welcome, but there is no loss in intensity here, as Grdina’s oud playing is skillful and dramatic.  When the rhythm section kicks in, the effect is tremendous; it nearly forces me out of my chair still on my twentieth listen…murmured vocals, mystic and unintelligible, add to the asskicking exotic feel of it all before Gustafsson’s sax swoops overhead, majestic and suitably mournful.  Title track “Barrel Fire” rocks all over the place, evoking a Minutemen-versus-King Crimson mood, complete with staggering no-wave breakdown in the middle.  Impeccably recorded too – all instruments come through well in the mix, clear and representative of what must’ve gone down that night in Vancouver.  All the musicians shine on this release, and I feel that I must check out more of the Grdina Trio’s work after this one.



check it out:

Barrel Fire
is The Gordon Grdina Trios’ most brutally driving, raw, dynamic record to date.  The collaboration between GG3 and Mats Gustafsson at the 2009 Vancouver International Jazz Festival was recorded and Barrel Fire is the first set from that night. There are few edits in order to retain the natural raw power of the original concert. The band expands and explodes through the melodic sketches with inherent  interest in the raw dynamic energy of group improvisation. The group sounds at times like a freight train screaming down the tracks in the dark recesses of your city but as the Oud takes the fore ground we are reminded of the sensitive and delicate reflection in this darkness. There are moments of silence and individual exploration filled with the intensity of the search. The search to let go to what will become. The band owes as much of a debt to the energy of bands like The EX, and The Dead Kennedys as it does to the primal melodic sensibility of Albert Ayler and the sophistication of Ornette Coleman.  This music is engaging and gripping, an onslaught.

The Gord Grdina Trio is based out of Vancouver, BC and has been a working touring ensemble since 2005.  The Trio consists of Gord Grdina (guitar, oud), Kenton Loewen (drums) and Tommy Babin (bass). They have collaborated with many of the world’s top improviser’s such as Fredrik Ljungkvist, Eric Boeren, Wilbert De Joode, Michael Moore, Jerry Granelli, Michael Blake, Jeb Bishop, Kent Kessler, Mark Helias, Ingebrigt Haker- Flaten and Fred Longberg-Holm.  They have toured throughout North America and Europe regularly since 2005.

Gordon Grdina is a guitar/oud player that is constantly reinventing himself while retaining an individual voice. Aside from the GG3 he leads  the East Van Strings, Haram, and Sangha. He also records and performs regularly with Dan Mangan and The Crackling.

Kenton Loewen has been a seminal member of the Vancouver improvising and rock communities performing in such wide ranging groups as the anarchist punk band Submission Hold, art pop group Mother Mother, The Now Orchestra, Tanya Tagaq, and the Coat Cooke Trio. He is currently with Dan Mangan and is the leader/songwriter for The Crackling.

Tommy Babin started his career in Montreal playing with Jorane, Thomas Hellman, and Les Projectionnistes before moving to Vancouver in 2005.  He has played with great jazz and world musicians like Daniele D’Agaro, Hamid Drake, Joel Miller, Ramachandra Borcar, and Paul Plimley.  He currently leads Benzene, and Sendero Luminoso.

Mats Gustafson was born 1964 in Umeå, Northern Sweden. He is a saxplayer, improviser and composer. Mats works as a solo artist and tours internationally with Peter Brötzmann, Sonic Youth, Merzbow, Jim O´Rourke, Barry Guy, Otomo Yoshihide, Yoshimi and in working groups The Thing, Sonore, FIRE!, Gush, Boots Brown, Swedish Azz and Nash Kontroll. Mats is a member of the Barry Guy New Orchestra, the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet and the NU – ensemble. Mats has done over 1600 concerts and has appeared on at least 150 records in Europe, North America and Asia.


“…this is a stunner.” – The Province

“There is so much power behind the drum hits, so much pent-up frustration in the guitar entanglements and as usual, Gustafsson makes the sax sound like a rabid beast rather than a musical instrument. Seek this recording out.” – Beat Route

“Grdina’s guitar and oud playing acts as a good foil to Gustafsson, with Babin and drummer Kenton Loewen supplying just the high-octane rhythm section required. Thrilling stuff.” – All About Jazz

“After its initial impact, relentless fury soon becomes one-dimensional, but Grdina and his rhythm section leaven Gustafsson’s bluster and he responds, making this music for repeated listening as well as catharsis.” – The Wire

“Fast-paced heads, smoking improvisations, and a high level of interaction between everyone.” – Monsieur Délire

“…the resulting sound is as violent as the cover art.” – Pop Matters

“Free, yet focused, intense and over-the-top, this is one of heaviest discs I’ve recently reckoned with.” – Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)

“Egged on by a worshipful audience, the band rips through five pieces like a rabid dog on the attack, the musicians’ sound at times reminiscent of Naked City in intensity and of Ornette Coleman’s (original) Prime Time in harmolodic approach.” – Textura

“…from acid-toned string-tickling skitter to boring-down relentlessness…” – Paris Transatlantic Magazine

“There is freshness and vitality to the performance, tight ensemble playing, power, subtlety – what’s not to like?” – Hour