Raw Tonk does solid business yet again with this great set whose attraction lies as much in the restraint of its quieter moments as in the all-out cacophony of its joyful noise. Recorded back in 2016 but still retaining its astringent tang, there’s a precision in the way that this quintet organises itself that belies the looseness of its methodology. At times the approach is almost compositional, despite the absence of a visible chain of command in the assembled team. The opening five minutes of ‘Ocean’ is a great example – all five musicians are in play, each totally absorbed in their individual acts of spontaneous sound-making while being perfectly attuned to their surroundings.
Similarly impressive is how complex, interlocking structures emerge from the ground up as a result of the group’s actions, and then transform into new shapes. In ‘Ideal’, a series of dry rasps and tubercular wheezes grows into a heaving, shifting tapestry. Wiry fragments of Dirk Serries’ guitar dance around Martina Verhoeven’s bass growls. Saxophone and trumpet, courtesy of Dikeman and Vicente, squeal in frantic delight, and George Hadow’s drum assault batters everything forward. It’s not so much shock and awe as a jangling, onrushing storm.
Not everything is coloured dark. ‘Principle’ develops into a righteous, sun-bleached strut, more marching band pizzazz than jazzhead groove. It had already announced itself as a keeper, thanks to an introductory section that sees Dikeman essaying some beautiful, langorous horn licks, with Serries and Hadow adding subtle textural flourishes. Once everyone’s up and running, a collective lugubrious chorale – Vicente’s trumpet sounding particularly punchy and perky – ushers in the abrasive, fun-filled wriggle. Strangley, Serries jamming out one gritty riff after another doesn’t seem at all out of place here, even as Hadow’s hip-swinging toms bring the Vegas swagger. Maybe that’s down to Verhoeven, who steadfastly refuses to play the anchorperson for this bunch, instead darting into the clamour to deliver hefty plucked jabs before fading back into the shadows, bass ninja style.