Hung Mung is a non-conventional, Barcelona-based trio. Its name is borrowed from a fictional character in the stories of the old Chinese Daoist sage Chuang Tzu. The meaning of Hung Mung is primal chaos, and this character is famous for his answers to philosophical inquiries by laughing, slapping his knee, and shouting «I don’t know! I don’t know!»
Hung Mung trio knows quite a lot about chaos, especially when it comes to post-free-jazz, post-rock, post-avant-garde, or any forms of free-improvisation, where chaos is often an integral part of the deal. Hung Mung features three leading improvisers of the Barcelona free music scene- Venezualian saxophonist and synth player El Pricto (aka Andrés Rojas), who is also the founder of Discordian Records; Colombian guitarist Diego; and Catalan (but with strong Portuguese roots) drummer Vasco Trilla. This trio released seven albums in 2020 – five are reviewed here, some with guests, and 2020 is not over yet. All albums address the existential aspects of chaos and all suggest that Hung Mung has experienced and accumulated many insights about this issue. And all are illustrated by ancient Chinese paintings, mostly by Chen Rong of the Southern Song Dynasty (circa 1200-1266), known mostly for his depictions of dragons.
Hung Mung host on «Chaos and Confucius» Portuguese prolific trumpeter Luis Vicente. This is the debut official release of the trio, preceded only by «Live At Robadors 23», recorded in January 2018 at 23 Robadors, Barcelona (Discordian Bottlegs, 2020). This collaborative effort was recorded at the Golden Apple club in Barcelona in March 2019. The interplay of Hung Mung here is far from being chaotic despite the ironic titles of the pieces and is tight, focused, and obviously powerful. Vicente blends in immediately and organically with Hung Mung on the urgent, free-improv of «Wherever You Go, Go With All Your Chaos» and injects poetic and playful dimensions to the restless dynamics. Vicente introduces «If We Don’t Know Chaos, How Can We Know Order?» and his imaginative use of extending breathing techniques trigger Hung Mung to follow him through this mysterious and surprisingly nuanced and minimalist soundscape. The last «Real Chaos Is To Know The Extent Of One’s Order» is a return to the free-improv meets free-jazz mode of the first piece but in a reserved manner. This is the best release so far from Hung Mung.
«Primal Chaos» features the core trio and was recorded at the Golden Apple club in Barcelona in September 2019. It begins with the wild and raw «He Who Cheates Order Will Be Cheated By Chaos» where Hung Mung moves naturally between sharp and nervous sax blow, heavily distorted guitar lines, and irregular rhythmic patterns and creates – literally – true yet addictive chaos. But «Afraid Of Standing Still» shows the opposite, restrained side of this trio, sketching an introspective and surprisingly melodic – in Hung Mung terms -soundscape. «Riding The Dangerous Wind» returns to the manic, raw, and chaotic incarnation of Hung Mung, and now all sound as producing dense layers of rhythmic, percussive sounds determined to reach a sonic meltdown. «Primal Chaos» ends with «Even A Hare Will Bite When It Is Cornered», another chaotic and powerful piece led by the possessed guitar playing of Caicedo.
Hung Mung host on «Adversity Tirlds Flair» Russian pianist Roman Stolyar, who also plays the flute. This album was recorded at Sinestesia, Barcelona in October 2019. The two extended improvisations here are the closest ones to the familiar schools of Europen of free jazz. Stolyar adds a crucial sense of order and coherence to the first title-piece, even in his most abstract playing inside the piano of this piece, and triggers Hung Mung to gravitate into a form of lyrical, and often chamber improvisation, but eventually blurred only by El Pricto sax shouts and Caicedo’s distorted guitar. «Distant Chaos Can Put Out A Nearby Order» continues the introspective vein of the previous piece but alternates between a brief and sudden intense free jazz segment when Hung Mung takes the lead and a longer contemplative, and sparse drone when Stolyar sets the course.
The title of «La fúria es lo primer» suggests that Hung Mung puts fury as its utmost priority, but the interplay of Hung Mung here is spacious and opts for a slow-cooking mode before it reaches its inevitable climatic codas. The album was recorded at the Golden Apple, Barcelona in October 2019, one week after «Adversity Tirlds Flair». The first piece «L’improstitució pot ser un problema a la llarga» (Prostitution can be a problem in the long run in Catalan) builds its raw power slowly, with El Pricto setting the volume and volition. «Impronomicon» alternates between a more thorny and urgent approach and a sparse and minimalist approach, both highlight guitarist Caicedo nervous, distorted lines, but, again, reaches the same explosive conclusion. «L’improfeta parla a la ment reptiliana» (The prophet speaks to the reptilian mind) begins with extended breathing gestures of El Pricto and reserved answers of Caicedo and Trilla, both later develop irregular rhythmic patterns. The last «La lluita per la impronòmina» begins with Hung Mung in a contemplative mode but apparently this trio was just amassing its volatile energy for another cathartic coda.
Spanish alto sax player Liba Villavecchia joins Hung Mung on «Chaophgous» and leaving El Pricto to focus only on his synthesizers. This album was recorded live at Nocturna Discordia #245 in Soda Acùstic. Barcelona in March 2020. Chaos, again, is the focus of the titles, and the eerie synth sounds of El Pricto, as well as the free playing of Villavecchia, contribute to the nervous, chaotic atmosphere. Hung Mung and Villavecchia sound at home in this form of free-associative free-improvisation, with no attempt to find the center of gravity but bursts of brutal energy, as on «Every Order leads to Chaos, but Chaos does not overflow». «Nothing more turbulent than Chaos» is actually based on enigmatic, quiet dynamics that rely on the unworldly synth sounds, quiet and reserved sax whispers, and blows abstract and subtle guitar lines and percussion work, and rarely flirts with stormy modes. But «and ‘Chaos goes like Order, it always comes back» delivers instantly the promised stormy chaos, but in small doses.
El Pricto (as, synth), Diego Caicedo (g), Vasco Trilla (dr), Luis Vicente (tp) Roman Stolyar (p, fl), Liba Villavecchia (as)