Raw Tonk is an extremely promising label with two excellent albums released already.
The most recent album put out by Raw Tonk is ‘…And It End Badly’ by Dead Neanderthals, a record of high-energy, intensely engaging, blistering free-jazz, featuring Colin Webster (sax), Rene Aquarius (drums), and Otto Kokke (sax). It instantly erupts with ‘There Was a Great Battle’, saxophones wrapping each other in sulphurous constrictor-tight fumes. ‘Weapons Drawn, Blood Spilled’ is another close dialogue, a rusted blurt joined at the hip with short scribbles and sharp full stops from the other saxophone: a caustic duo exchange with Aquarius tapping around the edges, dropping the occasional startled thud. There is drawn out tortured blues on ‘Both Sides Fought Bravely’, an acid drenched fugue; Aquarius unobtrusive until a repetitive pointed honk shortens its intervals and lunges for the other more languid melodic line, the drums become enlivened, rattling and provoking; it all culminates in a rusted siren skronk, the drums launching into a metal aggression, fierce and savage. ‘It Went On For Days’ has drums like a gate flapping in the wind, the reeds droning and shrieking; full of space and reflection in place of the momentum found elsewhere, it slowly accumulates mass. ‘And In Tears… Of Course’ is full of the sound of soft sighing melodic twines, vines of breath wrapping around the trunk of Aquarius’s solid backbone; it appears exhausted by the strenuous endeavour of the previous pieces; at its close, the saxophones collapse behind a rat-a-tat beat that hauls the album over the finishing line.
‘…And It Ended Badly’ is packed with heat and fire; a fully committed passionate ensemble performance. Free-Jazz of the post-Ascension kind, the players locked in a to-the-death battle, full of screaming expression. Certainly an album of violence and raw power at its peaks, ripping and clawing at the listener; it also finds space for more thoughtful moments. The range of expression is tightened to a point, an economy of tone that benefits from its shortness; the attack doesn’t have time to blunt, remaining knife-sharp for its whole duration.
Raw Tonk’s first release ‘The Claw’ by Colin Webster (sax) and Mark Holub (drums) is a mighty beast. Opening in gripping fashion with a deep buzz of baritone building a boiling head of steam, Holub’s drumming is almost Steve Noble-like in its rapidly rigged constructions; instant madly twisting scaffolds. There is a great range of textures but the lasting memory is a ripping blaze, blown by Webster. Pieces are short and explosive. Even the more placid moments like ‘No Hidden Depths’ and ‘We’re Done Here’ continually threaten a storm. Holub’s playing is reactive and sensitive to the scene, a subtle rattle of activity under the muscular punch of the saxophone. He locks into Webster like a symbiotic entity during the racing outro to ‘We’re Done Here’, also taking a brilliant solo during ‘Little One Growing Well’. Webster switches from full gales to soft curls and wisps; always with an edge, a concealed fury just off stage. Even hushed, he sounds ready to pounce. ‘Skua’ shows how talented they are at spinning something raging tangled and knotted; they often pick at a single element until it unravels and catches alight, fanning the flames until it becomes an angry conflagration.
Raw Tonk is a label to watch, at this early stage already building a formidable catalogue of fiercely gripping and meditative music.
Purchase their music here.