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SURD - Live at Glenn Miller Café

Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic

Step through the front door of the Glenn Miller Café, tucked away in a quiet Stockholm side street, turn sharp right and you'll probably knock the upright piano over. The bandstand - that's a misnomer: it's a corner - is barely ten feet square, and the club itself isn't much bigger, and invariably packed to capacity.
Food is served from 5pm onwards (the Swedes are even worse than the British when it comes to dining early) and you'd be well advised to reserve in advance. The place and its atmosphere are warm and friendly, and the food delicious: the chef's French, or at least the one they had a year ago was.
The sign "Skivinspelning" outside tells you tonight's concert, which will probably consist of three 45 minute sets, is going to be recorded, and the chances are the sandy-haired gent at the bar nursing a bottle of best Belgian beer with a contented smile on his face is Ayler Records' Jan Ström. After all, nearly a quarter of all the albums he's released so far were recorded here, and this is the latest.

SURD is a quartet consisting of guitarist David Stackenäs, alto / tenor man Fredrik Nordström, bassist Filip Augustson and drummer Thomas Strønen, and the music on offer here was recorded on June 14th and 15th 2004.
In homage to Steve Lacy, whose death had been announced a few days earlier, proceedings open with "38", from the late great saxophonist's old Emanem treasure The Crust. It's a great start to the album, with Augustson and Strønen chopping merrily away at Lacy's trademark relentless major and minor seconds.
Stackenäs's guitar is taut and springy, with a rough Sharrock bottleneck lyricism well suited to the Last Exit-ish unison of his "Hello Paul". The rhythm section is inventive and rubbery on the uptempo numbers, but sounds rather flabby on "Head P", Nordström's homage to Bristol trip-hoppers Portishead, whose music's intensity derives as much from the claustrophobic looped samples of dirty vinyl as from its melancholy minor harmony (something that, with the best will in the world, can't be pulled off by a live rhythm section: Strønen's just aching to get busy with the brushes and the piece just won't let him).
The group effort that follows, "Bye Bye Teddy" is much more effective, and the tough pedal points of Augustson's "Magnum Bonum" - shades of Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society, yeah! - is a great way to close the set and send the punters out on a high into the streets of dear old Stockholm.
Just mind you don't knock the piano over on the way out.