Mattin

Songbook vol.4

azul discografica
azd02

"Mattin once described his approach to music-making as a matter of 'trying to contradict the preconceptions that people might have, to put a different perspective on what can be done in a performance situation.' And so it was that in 2005, the Basque laptop artist best known (depending on who you ask) for his exquisitely restrained laptop improvisations with Radu Malfatti, Eddie Prevost, and Axel Doerner; his palate-cleansing duet with Tim Barnes at ErstQuake 3; or the deformed, impossibly strange 'rock & roll' he makes in Billy Bao and Josetxo Grieta. This fourth volume is far and away the best and quite possibly the strangest in the 'Songbook' series. Whereas earlier volumes found Mattin ripping away at an acoustic guitar and doing his cheapest, most grating Lou Reed imitation, Vol. 4, recorded live in Tokyo, is a concise electric ensemble set featuring Anthony Guerra on second guitar, Tomoya Izumi shouting as Jean-Luc Guionnet plays sax 'in the toilet,' and Taku Unami punctuates Mattin's anguished vocals with popping bass licks and brief piano phrases. Somehow, the resulting 'songs' suggest a particularly fucked-up, drummerless outing by Fushitsusha. In point of fact, Songbook Vol. 4's closest relatives in the rock & roll canon are Suicide's famously confrontational live shows of the mid-'70s, the Electric Eels at the point of disintegration, or the between-song 'banter' on Reed's Take No Prisoners reimagined as a score for five very exciting young improvisers. It is, in other words, one of the greatest live records ever made."


Alberto Cabrera (3 de septiembre 2008)

Una broma navajera



Foxy Digitalis


Mattin "Songbook Vol. 4"
Azul Discografica


‘Til this point I’ve frankly not had lot of luck finding much that Basque avant–garde–trickster slash prankster– “muso” slash performance–artist Mattin has had a hand in to be a particularly pleasant and/or rewarding listening experience. To recap, that would include his “exquisitely restrained” laptop improvisations with Radu Malfatti, Eddie Prévost, and Alex Dörner; his “palate–cleansing” duet with Tim Barnes at Erstquake 3; or the “deformed, impossibly strange ‘rock & roll” he makes in Billy Bao and Josetxo Grieta. Not that I’ve heard all of it, to be sure. But onward.

The Mattin Songbooks – of which this is the fourth instalment – defy glib explanation, and “Songbook Vol. 4” is easily my pick of and the most successful in the series. Uh... wait... define success. Ok. Rather than being an excruciatingly long solo set of Mattin abusing a guitar and unsuccessfully mimicking/parodying Lou Reed, “Vol. 4” was recorded in a live setting in Tokyo (Enban, 5th July 2006) and features a full(–ish) band: Anthony Guerra (second guitar), Taku Unami (bass and piano) – and from the toilet, Tomoya Izumi (shouting) and Jean-Luc Guionnet (saxophone). It’s also quite tolerably concise – 22 minutes – and most importantly, if you’re me you’ll not only enjoy listening to this but you’ll come back again and again for more.

Mattin helpfully offers the following manifesto as a guide to one’s appreciation of his “Songbooks”:

1. Make up songs on the spot
2. The songs must have a beginning, a chorus, and an end
3. Record the songs directly into the internal microphone of a laptop computer
4. Use improvisation as a way or exposing structural and improvisational clichés in pop/rock music
5. Use song structures to demystify the so-called spontaneity and freedom of improvisation
6. Release the recordings on different labels and laugh at different peoples reactions

... and to that you may as well add the following, gleaned from the declamatory liner notes:

7. Mastering, “clean(s)ing”, post-production of any sort is to be forgone

So right away you’re probably thinking, “Oh yeah, like those Company Week albums, or Lars Von Trier’s film–making Dogma”. And if you’re thinking that then you’re probably also recalling the somewhat marked variances in listen–slash–watchability. And possibly also how they are always breaking their own rules. Or possibly not. But either way don’t stop reading now, cos I haven’t yet had the chance to tell you that this is one of the most exciting “out–”rock records I’ve heard for some time – somehow the five players conjure up something incredible and vital that resembles – but at the same time surpasses – an ideal collision of a drummerless Fushitsusha and the most abstract outré extremities of Reynols – all ending up at a loft-gig in NYC 1977 on the same bill as DNA and the Theoretical Girls.

This one is the goods. Now the songs – for we must grant them that respect – despite their spontaneous conceptions there’re beginnings, choruses and endings (2) – arc with the true curve of accomplished compositions. This time the electric guitars chime and ring and shine with the sheen of suppressed feedback fury, while Mattin’s vocals veer between unaffected falsetto and bellows of tormented angst. Taku Unami’s implausibly funky bass pops ands lopes all over the constructs that the band has conjured – then he puts down the bass and weaves delicate piano lines all through “You Cannot Survive Any Of My Desires”. It’s no mean feat but Mattin and his pick-up band actually *cough* break my heart on the set–closer “Apologies”; when he pleads “I’m sorry.. I’m sorry.. it is not my intention to offend you” in his quivering murmur, my ears forgive him for all those irritations.

At some point someone will need to point out to Mattin that several of the articles of his dogma are flawed: (4) and (5) specifically – whatever; it’s old news; for god’s sake has the man not heard of progressive rock and jazz fusion? – and article (6) is frankly asinine and the kind of defensive manoeuvre that anybody with anything less that shit–fer–brains can see straight through. But notwithstanding – and despite (3) and (7) – that “Songbook Vol. 4” is both form– and content–wise perfectly acceptable stands as a testament to something – god knows what – most probably the kinda weird magic that was in the air that Tokyo evening. These guys oughtta play together more often.

File under 'No Wave'. No, really.

(also file under 'Free'; the album–cover comes adorned with Mattin’s “anti–copyright” logo so presumably it is/will be available somewhere as a download.) 8/10 -- Stephen Clover (6 February, 2007)




Squid Ear (USA)

Despite what the company he sometimes keeps might suggest, Mattin is one of the biggest things going in punk. He is, when he wants to be, loud, brutal, lo-fi and strident. His songbook series is some of his most overtly rock stuff, improvised songs (verse and chorus) recorded into the internal mike on a laptop. And true to punk form, Volume 4 (two of the previous three are available for free download on his website, http://mattin.org) rushes by, six songs in 22 minutes. Recorded live in Tokyo in 2006 with four other musicians (two of them in the club’s toilet), it’s loose and ugly. The band (Taku Unami on bass and piano, Anthony Guerra on guitar, Jean-Luc Guionnet on sax and Tomoya Izumi providing additional shouting) includes some other typically quiet musicians, and they retain a sense of sparseness despite the overdrive. The improvised song forms, played without drums, make the album sound something like a Suicide quintet. It’s cool, it’s raw - your parents wouldn’t like it, and your kids probably won’t either.
Kurt Gottschalk 2008-05-07



The Wire (London, March 2007)
Outer Limits
Keith Hollings

Mattin could probably write a very nice song if he chose to, but it's probably better for everyone that he doesn't. Instead he makes up stuff and records it straight into his Thinkpad T42 laptop, using its constricted internal microphone to pick up his singing, along with some guitars and a couple of people down the hall shouting and playing sax together in the toilet. Mattin really makes you not want to care. He takes things serisously so you don't have to. " I know you cannot survive any of my desires," he intones at one particularly intense moment in the session, which took place somewhere in Tokyo last summer. He doesn't have to tell you twice.

Ruta 66 (Barcelona)



Paris Transatlantic (Paris Jan. 2007)

Mattin



SONGBOOK VOL.4
Azul Discografica

It's a shame Jacques Derrida definitively deconstructed himself and left the planet a couple of years ago, as this might have made an ideal Christmas present for him. Mattin has, after all, made as much of a career out of deconstruction as the dear departed maître penseur; for a start, he's deconstructed rock and roll with Billy Bao and La Grieta, deconstructed the rulebook of free improvisation by popping up with playing partners as wildly different in orientation as Radu Malfatti and Tim Goldie, deconstructed his own record label by making everything he does available as a free download, and arguably deconstructed himself – put it this way, if you booked Mattin for a gig, would you know what to expect? Nah, neither would I. This is the fourth volume of his Songbook series, in which he totally deconstructs the idea of the pop song (though he's hardly the first to do so – pop and rock have been unravelling slowly for the past quarter of a century in case you hadn't noticed), improvising the whole gritty mess direct to disc, or rather, straight into the mono input of his Thinkpad. He's joined on these six "songs" (I suppose we should use the inverted commas) by Taku Unami on bass and piano, Anthony Guerra on guitar and, in the toilet (it says here) Jean-Luc Guionnet on sax and Tomoya Izumi on "shouting". God knows what was going on in the toilet.. next time I see Jean-Luc I'll try to find out. Meanwhile, this disc – only 22 minutes long but nicely produced with good liner notes by Toné Gorgoron, whoever s/he is – comes with a mission statement outlining the, um, ethos of the Songbook project. It ends with the line "Release the recordings on different labels and laugh at different people's reactions." Including, presumably, mine. So I'd better shut up. Suffice it to say I might keep this one a bit longer than Volume 1.–DW




Bagatellen (USA)

Ah, OK, what can we make of this? I'm apparently one of the few earthly denizens who enjoyed Mattin's first volume in the "Songbook" series on Hibari, a raucous, snarled set of improvised rock songs sounding (if this is possible) like a less studied version of DNA. I've missed the interim entries, vols. 2 & 3, though I somehow doubt there's any discernable "career arc" happening. This is a live set, a very recent one (July 5,2006), recorded in Tokyo by a rather all-star quintet: Mattin (vocals, guitar), Taku Unami (bass, piano), the excellent Anthony Guerra (guitar) and, from down the hall in the toilet, Jean-Luc Guionnet (sax) and Tomoya Izumi (shouting).

It's a brief disc, the six "songs" presented in a single 22-minute track. Supremely lo-fi and unbalanced, Mattin maybe singing into his computer mic (I say, "singing" but of course other words would serve better: growling, shrieking, sobbing, howling, gurgling, etc.), Guerra alternating between harsh clusters and relatively delicate plucking. Unami's bass playing, given his prediliction for computer-animated toys, is surprisingly funky. Cracks me up when, after a given eructative song, Mattin demurely says to the audience, "Thank you very much, thank you." In addition to DNA, the clear precedent for this approach seems to be Zorn's "Locus Solus" project from the early 80s. For my money, this works better, here largely due to Guerra's playing which, as usual, I find very compelling. That said, "Songbook vol 4" is at best going to be an acquired taste for most listeners. Dealing with Mattin's personality, as out front as it is here, ain't no easy thing. The final track, "Apologies", finds him bawling his head off. If he's faking it, it's a disturbingly convincing fraud. I don't know. That's also the section in which one can discern Guionnet and Izumi contributing from, apparently, a toilet far off mic.

It'd be tough to out and out recommend this one, but I'm kinda glad to have it.




Kraak

Het liedjesboek van would-be enfant ter-

rible Mattin is totaal andere koek. Het is

zijn vierde al, maar het concept blijft het-

zelfde: verzin ter plaatse liedjes met een

traditionele structuur, neem ze op met de

laptop, gebruik improvisatie om rock- en

popclichés te ontmaskeren en hanteer

traditionele structuren om de mythe van

de vrijheid en spontaniteit van improvi-

satie te doorprikken; breng ten slotte de

opnames uit op verschillende labels en

lach met de mensen hun reactie. Terwijl

hij voor zijn vorige songbooks door-

gaans als een soort improbard solo met

de gitaar instantkampvuurliedjes bracht,

is hij nu aan de slag gegaan met een

paar maten. Taku Unami bast, Anthony

Guerra gitaart en in het toilet zitten een

saxofonist en een roeper. Wat geeft dat?

Vrij ingehouden impronoiserock met

veel gepraat en gezing eroverheen van

Mattin. Men amuseert zich, Mattin lijkt

schik te hebben in zijn rol van rocker en

het is eigenlijk allemaal wel een beetje

grappig. Maar of dat de bedoeling is?

Waarschijnlijk toch wel. Niettemin is

dit niet echt de gepaste introductie tot

‘s mans snel groeiende oeuvre, dat in

het  hedendaagse improvisatiewezen

een heel eigen plaats inneemt. Uitchec-

ken die boel! Op www.mattin.org vindt

u tonnen illustratief materiaal. –MP



ZGUN #3 (Sacramento, February 2009)

Disclosure" I "brokered" the transaction whereby this disc was released. All profits have disappeared and no books were kept. A cornerstone of the terriblist school of rock & roll, this final entry in the Songbook series finds Mattin "bridging" the "gap" between "improv" and "songwriting" with an all-star Japanese band. To qoute a good friend, this record is beyond good and evil; but mostly it's evil. Not in your wildest dreams. Acapulco Rodriguez



discography
w.m.o/record label
desetxea net label
www.mattin.org