Is there a place for metal bloodletting in your free jazz stew? Nels Cline thinks so. He, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and saxophonist Larry Ochs fall flat on their backs and bark screaming mad in tribute to what sounds like Mastodon impaled on Sunn O)))’s altar of slow-motion disaster. It’s about crunch, calamity, and release—then you die.
To be fair, not all of What Is to Be Done is ear-splitting. The album starts quietly enough, Ochs tracing hiccups while Cleaver keeps a gentle groove in the 21-minute opener, “Outcries Rousing.” Enter Nels Cline, stage right. The groove becomes more alert, chords imply danger. Ochs looks over the horizon, spits on the ground. Seven minutes in and Ochs is a dead man; Cleaver is thumping a funeral march; and Cline has ripped off his skull and poured molten lead down his neck hole. Fifteen minutes in and the death grip holds all, only muscle memory plucking strings and depressing keys. It’s a deranged show, a deafening blast that will foul your children.