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Julie Mittens - Recorded June 20 2005

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Artist: Julie Mittens

Album: Recorded June 20 2005

Label: self-released

Review date: Feb. 26, 2006

Julie Mittens – sounds sweet as lemon meringue pie, doesn’t she? One can only dream for a scenario where a would-be record buyer stumbled across this while bin-surfing for an unknown chanteuse. But, damn Skippy, Miss Mittens is not a lady. Nope. She is Holland’s – if not the UK’s – fiercest, most free-crawling sound unit happening today. Built by guitarist Apart-Jan Schakenbos, bassist Michel van Dam and drummer Leo Fabriek, the trio seem to have been spliced together from the gene pool of Fushitsusha, Skullflower, and Rashied Ali. Seems incapable, but they pull it off and then some.

Recorded June 20 2005 is Mittens’ third self-released CD-R since 2002 and while Italy’s Qbico will be outing a picture disc LP soon, this 70-minute behemoth carries more than enough sonic sustenance to satisfy those seeking “proper” documentation. Over six unnamed pieces Schakenbos alternates between jagged, sprawled out swaths of comet-tailed feedback and dissonant, yet sparsely articulate blues notes. While his tone cuts through Fabriek and van Dam’s syncopated rhythm/nonrhythm duality, his axe is not perched in the lead role. All three are prominent, core pieces to the vision, like the fist-pumping free jazz of Last Exit or Poly Breath Percussion Band. What take Julie Mittens even further out is their adaptation of the levitation, bliss qualities of Blue Humans or Dead C.

Throughout the set, van Dam’s bass tugs at the ear to give full attention to his weave and bob low-end. On the third piece, he grooves relentlessly, almost in mode of Jimmy Garrison’s intro to “Crescent” from Coltrane’s Live in Japan, without care to the skree bubbling around him. It is an exhilarating center to the outer sheath of shattering feedback and drum rolls.

After a near linear path, the fourth piece is Mittens’ blues song. Schakenbos’ expressive tone distinctly echoes paths of Haino/Mazzacane before giving way to screeching spikes and an extended, hell-bet swinging outro from Fabriek. The disc ends with 15 minutes of continually escalating and monstrous light and momentum.

With such intensity, it is easy to overcome the reoccurring dodgy sound quality (mainly in van Dam’s bass), though caging Julie Mittens in a studio may damper their unsurpassable surge. Nonetheless, Recorded June 20 2005 is an exhaustive ride which I happily challenge the band to top.

By Eric Weddle

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