If any two guys have earned the acronym GOAT, it’s Peter Brötzmann and Keiji Haino. Both are titanic performers and transformative examples for other artists. Neither man’s work can be contained within a single genre, and one thing to acknowledge about this massive, gorgeously packaged quadruple LP (or 162-minute download, if you prefer a format that’s easier to obtain and closer to the annihilation both artists ponder) is that very uncontained quality.
What Haino and Brötzmann do here exceeds words such as “improvisation” or “ritual,” although both capture aspects of the experience. Neither of the concerts, recorded four nights apart in California in August 2018, relied upon a score, and to follow the course of either show from start to finish is to hear an echo of a ceremony. But there’s more going on here than the sound of two guys playing an assortment of instruments. (Brötzmann is on clarinet, taragato and tenor saxophone; Haino contributes drums, electric guitar and voice.) This is the sound of two vortexes of existence coexisting, summoning the memories of many decades (Haino was born in 1952, Brötzmann in 1941) and the awareness of whatever vastness yawns beyond their inevitable endings.
In the sandpaper scrape and seam-splitting breadth of Brötzmann’s breath-length reed contours, you hear someone straining against the confines of his body’s capabilities. In Haino’s unstable instrumental shapes, you hear someone kicking over preconceptions of how his tools are supposed to be used, like Godzilla putting the boot to a low-rise skyscraper. And when each man just roars, often at moments that challenge what the other is doing, you hear gusts of feeling beyond emotion. Excess = essence.