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Brötzmann / Nilssen-Love
Chicken Shit Bingo Daniel Hignell , January 26th, 2024 09:50

A final, posthumous release from the late, great Peter Brötzmann, here on fine form with regular collaborator Paal Nilssen-Love hitting all the right spots

The release of a new, posthumous Peter Brötzmann album is a tantalising prospect, albeit one run through with the fear of some misguided cash grab, a derivative work that should never have left its dusty demo tape and now risks tarnishing its namesake's reputation. Thankfully, Chicken Shit Bingo is delivered by the respectful hand of key Brötzmann collaborator Paal Nilssen-Love, and consists of a long-gestating studio session that the pair had never quite managed to complete.

I’ve always felt that Nilssen-Love seemed to bring out a somewhat softer side in Brötzmann, their collaborations defined by a more melodious din, a clearer focus on space and silence. Here, the duo seem to double-down on the approach, creating some of the most outwardly pleasant, pensive music of their careers.

LP opener ‘Found the cabin but no people’ crawls through its material, offering up a sluggish, emergent melody punctuated by the soft strike of distant gongs, its final minute nothing but a single note tentatively petering out, leaving nothing but breath and resonance. Tracks like ‘Smuddy water’ and the sublime ‘South of no return’ continue such ponderous explorations, with meandering lead lines brushing against subtle percussion, the light rattle of the gong adding erratic harmonics to each expressive thud.

Those expecting a war of squawking saxophones throwing down against thunderous, unnerving percussion, in the vein of Machine Gun, may well come away a little disappointed. That’s not to say Chicken Shit Bingo is entirely devoid of such performative aggression. Tracks like ‘Dancing Octopus’ and ‘ Move on over’ certainly lean in that direction. But as a whole, the album is defined by a more subtle interplay, unsettling not for its abrasive qualities, but for its restraint.

There is a certain joy to be had in observing how these two performers interact, their parts merging and coming apart with no clear sense of who might be following who. The percussion is rarely relegated to a supporting role and oscillates between offering counterpoint and texture. Nilssen-Love is seemingly more concerned with the timbral qualities of his assorted instruments than with reinforcing rhythm or melody. And yet, in those surprisingly disparate moments where the saxophone rises up as if snagged on a note and desperately trying to get loose, the percussion suddenly latches on, frantically pulling and shaking, brief moments of madness that soon dissipate back into a doleful, solemn void.

Chicken Shit Bingo is, to my ear at least, a near-perfect encapsulation of Brötzmann’s power. Whilst many devout fans may lament its more measured tone (though arguably this approach has always been present, case in point the quieter bits of 1987’s Berlin Djungle), the album frames aggression with both beauty and tension, as if, even in is nicest moments, we are but a hairsbreadth from disaster. Regardless of personal tastes, however, the album achieves the holy grail of post-humous releases – a meaningful contribution that adds to and extends an already impressive body of work.