Sweden/New York based band Anders Nilsson's AORTA's second cd "Janus" offers further inspired riffage, hard-core blowing, imaginative writing, and edge-of-their-seats improvisations, all handled with great interaction and dynamics. While in part focusing on electric sounds, the band's scorched voice is delicately balanced by tender moments of purity. As the title Janus indicates this disc is many-faced and full of wonderful contradictions. It includes several viewpoints and approaches to the band's playing their heart out. All this packaged in cool cover art!
Anders Nilsson - guitars, organ
Mattias Carlson - saxes, flute-with and without effetcs
David Carlsson - electric bass, korg polysix
Peter Nilsson - drums, percussion
ANDERS NILSSON'S AORTA - Janus (Kopascetic 008/Sweden) This is the second colossal post/fusion/progressive effort from local guitar hero Anders Nilsson's Swedish quartet Aorta. It again features Anders on guitars, Mattias Carlson on all saxes & flute, David Carlsson on electric bass and Peter Nilsson on drums & percussion. Like their first disc, 'Blood', Aorta sound as if they are storming out of the seventies before fusion became a predictable set of cliches. This quartet is heavy with strong electric guitar and sax interplay and inspired soloing. I am reminded of great pre-fusion classics like McLaughlin's 'Devotion' album or even a semi-legendary Philly band called Good God, who once played with Miles at the Tower Theatre and gave Miles' band a run for their money. This is one powerful and tight quartet with some wonderful writing making it even more special and unpredictable. Anders plays both acoustic and electric guitars on "Tight & Tender", an aptly titled tune, laid back and feisty at the same time with a fine solo from Mattias on sax. "Harlem Space" sounds like King Crimson playing jazz/rock when it begins and then goes through a swell bluesy section. I reaaly dig how "Sloughing" goes through different sections of free and charted areas, remaining focused and story-like throughout its epic-length workout. There is a hilarious section for crazed vocal shenanigans midway, as well as some haunting spacious terrain. You just never know where you will end up, except for great surprises. On a few of these pieces the quartet lays back and gets into some fine moody areas - hushed, dark and cerebral. "Wizardry" is a great brooding, mysterious, jazz/rock classic that continues to haunt me long after the CD has ended, where have I heard this before?!? Considering that it is only January, I know that this fine disc is bound to be one of the year's best under-recognized gems. - Bruce Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
Jochem Van Dijk's review in ALLABOUTJAZZ:
"The late and lamented Derek Bailey has suggested that due to the current state of jazz—“a comfortable reminder of the good old days” was one of his more sympathetic characterizations—a complete separation of jazz and improvised music is in effect.
Aorta’s sophomore effort, Janus, makes a good case for the validity of Bailey’s point. The Swedish band, centered around NY-based guitarist Anders Nilsson, immediately presents in the opening “Operation: Janus” the elements which make up its music, none of which are considered jazz. There are streaks of '90s metal in the thematic material and structure of the compositions, which are riff-by-riff and theme-by-theme suite-like pieces, rather than chord-based song structures; you have those loud and obnoxious saxophone/guitar unisons that recall Dick Heckstall-Smith with prog-rock brontosaurus Colosseum, plus a good dose of Zappa-esque rhythmic spielerei. These elements are bundled into a vehicle for relentless improvising, in greater doses and with much more collective audacity than your everyday jazz release.
The older you get, the more you realize that the music you grew up with is the most important music in your life, whether you like it or not. Nilsson’s carefully crafted compositions seem to dissect the music most closely ingrained in his and bandmates’ collective subconscious. What comes out on Janus is something very '70s that smells of flea market record bins, utterly unfashionable and without any hint of campiness. Nilsson and his bandmates seem to say, “We looked, we found, and this is us.” Art—sometimes it's just that simple.
Nilsson has a very personal style and a guitar tone unlike any American jazz player I can think of: a hint of true twang in a mostly clean, but nonetheless very electric sound. Far from any lock-stock jazz or fusion guitar tone, his is closer to someone like Toy Caldwell from those staunch southern country rockers of yesteryear, the Marshall Tucker Band. Imagine Bill Frisell playing behind chicken wire in an Appalachian country bar after the locals stole all his pedals.
While Janus lacks the exuberance and happy-go-lucky disposition of the previous Blood, Aorta’s music has gained a lot in depth, due to the more elaborate stylistic diffusion of the compositions and the broader emotional scope of the collective playing and improvising. Not everything works—the bluesy tidbits in “Harlem Space” fall a bit flat—but the band creates a lot of excitement, and it should be tomorrow’s festival act for an open-minded audience.
If you prefer “pretty” music, then you probably will want to skip this record, and it might take a few listenings before it really gets hold of you. But then Janus gets more and more captivating by revealing ever-changing shades of depth and wonder, bewilderment and moods—just like, well, life itself. A small monument of brutal honesty from a band with a future."