All-star quartet Last Exit garnered its reputation with a string of unrelentingly forceful concert recordings in which it pushed the energy style of free jazz to its limits. When the group went into the studio for the only, though, a very different sort of album resulted—very different not only from all their other output, but even from anything else ever heard from anyone at that time. Because of that, when it was released in 1988, some fans and critics didn't know what to make of it. This was, in a way, understandable, because Iron Path was so far ahead of its time that perhaps only now, over a quarter of a century later, is there an audience prepared for this album's pioneering hybrid of abstract heavy metal, unsettling ambient music, and free improvisation. Back in 1988, "Darkwave" hadn't yet been conceived, much less named and niched.
The brutal sonic assault of Last Exit's live albums is not banished; it lurks below the surface on Iron Path, sometimes allowed to break through for a moment of stark contrast. But the unremitting density of texture heard in the quartet's shows is stripped back in favor of more subtle and varied textures, sculpting an atmosphere of moody brooding and sinister suspense. And, of course, the studio also allowed for far greater sonic clarity, putting these virtuoso players in a setting that shows off their masterful command of myriad timbres.
In a world that has since become accustomed to hearing Earth, Pelican, Blut Aus Nord, Aphex Twin's Ambient Works sets, and Oöphoi, and artists such as Whote who explore the overlap between them, Iron Path can finally get its due, and an audience schooled to appreciate what it offers.
CD & LP available:
released November 3, 2016
Sonny Sharrock: guitar
Peter Brötzmann: saxophone
Bill Laswell: bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums
Produced by Last Exit / Bill Laswell
Engineering by Martin Bisi
Recorded & mixed at B.C. Studio, Brooklyn, NY
Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper
at TurtleTone Studio, NYC
Artwork & design by Yoko Yamabe @ Randesign
Business: Tony Meilandt
2015 coordination: Garret Morris
In Memory: Sonny Sharrock (August 27, 1940 – May 26, 1994)
Ronald Shannon Jackson (January 12, 1940 – October 19, 2013)
Bernard Stollman (July 19, 1929 – April 20, 2015) - Peace
all songs written by
Peter Brötzmann &
Ronald Shannon Jackson