Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit capture a strong sense of total freedom on new box set

The release of Large Unit’s Erta Ale (PNL Records ***1/2) should have wide appeal, and justifiably so given the ideas here, to free jazz and improv followers of the Brötzmann school particularly, this 3-CD/4-LP box set from The Thing drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s 11-piece.

A relatively new band, set up less than 18 months ago with a live album already under their belts, this latest release comes in an attractively designed box, with a UK release date of 8 December, and gathers combined Large Unit live and studio material, following on from an earlier Moers release and features some concert material again from the German festival but recorded this summer.

The line-up — Thomas Johansson (cornet, flugelhorn), Mats Äleklint (trombone), Kasper Værnes (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone), Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (alto saxophone, baritone saxophone), Borre Mølstad (tuba), Ketil Gutvik (electric guitar), Lasse Marhaug (turntable, electronics), Jon Rune Strøm (electric bass, acoustic bass), Christian Meaas Svendsen (electric bass, acoustic bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums, percussion), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums, percussion) — is a fearsome unit at times, their collective squalling a wall of sound sometimes but shrinking to more intimate abstractions in sharp contrast.

The second ‘Studio/Live’ CD is the most brutal of all, appealing not quite so much to me, but the first and third discs are excellent and still pretty full-on. There are several versions of ‘Round About Nothing’ (how’s that for a statement in the title in itself?) at least one on each of the three discs and ‘Birdbox’ with different featured soloists is a firm favourite of the Large Unit’s too, as is the panoramic ‘Culius,’ the Moers version the pick. Nilssen-Love is a significant figure on the global jazz scene his anarchic multi-directional and punk stylings utterly unique and compelling and his compositional direction reaching a crunch point here. SG