Mats Gustafsson & Joachim Nordwall – Their Power Reached Across Space and Time – To Defy Them Was Death – Or Worse

Thrill Jockey / LP/CD/DL / 2023

Mats Gustafsson & Joachim Nordwall Anxious Magazine

I’m new here and you don’t know me yet, so I’m going to confess something to you, maybe it will break the ice somehow. One of the biggest fears that comes at me in the night is the one that suggests that nothing new awaits me in the world of audio-experiences anymore. Yes, I know… first world problems. I also don’t like it when an eyelash goes under my eyelid, or when I forget about an avocado and it’s already to ripe to be eaten. Anyway, ever since I can remember, I’ve been looking for new sounds, or at least some changes to their traditional configuration, like a pig looking for truffles, like a junkie craving for drugs at the station, or like… Krystyna Pawłowicz looking for salad in her handbag (you can go on forever). That’s why I have so-called ‘standby artists’ on hand, on whom I can always count, because I know what path they are following. What’s more, I have confidence in this path.

The route, marked by Mats Gustafsson and Joachim Nordwall, is winding, unpredictable and even dangerous, but it is one that I stepped onto once again, on 24 March, with blush on my face but without a hint of hesitation, saying to myself in spirit: “let’s fucking fly bitch!”. Well I took the first step and a forest appeared to my eyes…

Just kidding, I couldn’t see shit! It was dark, wet and cold, as ‘There Are Some Worlds Where All Dreams Die (En Glad Stund)’ extinguished the remnants of light in this forest as it crawled out of the underworld, pushing winding roots to the surface for you to kill yourself over. Similarly, “Their New Life Was Their Final Life (Vilse)” – kind of reminds me of that joke about the psychopath. He walks through the woods, with a girl and when she starts crying, he goes: stop crying, I’ve got it worse, because I’ll be going back alone.

How perfectly, for example, the breath conducts emotions and successfully substitutes for lyrics or vocals, was made clear to me by Fuyuki Yamakawa – a London-born Japanese musician and performer who meticulously uses medical devices along with microphones to amplify the sounds coming out of the body (be it the chest or throat etc.). Mats gladly exercised this sacred right for experimentation, because he knew perfectly well that with Joachim (whom, as we know from the interview, he has known since at least the ancient times) he could afford to take absolutely any risk and simply let his imagination run wild. As a result, in addition to the traditional sounds that can be made from wind instruments, on the album we hear groans, breathing, mumbling and other unspecified murmurs. All this means that, once again, we are dealing not only with a musical piece, but also with a suggestion of the image behind the piece.

The latest album is a little bolder and more ‘forward’ than the previous one, which raises hopes for the future for a “truffles” and “drugs” (and salad) seeker like me. There’s a lot of restlessness here, low and heavily resonant sounds. It’s all creeping up behind you, keeping you awake, peering over your shoulder and panting in your neck. So if, on the occasion of a review of this fantastic duo’s previous collaboration, “A Map of Guilt”, released in 2017 with Bocian Records, Bartek Chaciński (after all, he is the Young Ambassador of Polish Language on behalf of the Polish Language Council of the Polish Academy of Sciences) gratefully called Nordwall’s musical endeavours “rubbing the big jack”, then here the “jack” is essentially rubbed quite intensively. And I am enjoying this along with jack. I am Jack’s pulsating joy ;)

If that wasn’t enough, then there are the titles! Similar to those in post-rock ballads (they never fit on the discman display window), but they carry a sort of sarcastic English-Swedish message and this let’s call it “tragi-satire” on today’s reality (to put it gently) is undoubtedly a huge additional value to the whole endeavour. I recommend interpreting them for yourself. Some fit the songs, others are sternly subversive, like today’s make-up trends. I won’t spoil the fun for you. Google it, listen to it, be afraid. Gustafsson and Nordwall will come at night to pick up your musical habits and spread them over the twisted walls of ghastly branch shacks like in the “Blair Witch Project” movie.

Marta Podoska