That’s right, I spent both Saturday and Sunday submerged by the sounds emitted by these four CDs. Thanks as always to Simon Reynell for promoting, releasing and sending out some of the best improvised music on the market. While I’m writing this article, more recordings have already been published from this great imprint. Needless to say, they will be featured in future reviews
WADE MATTHEWS / STÉPHANE RIVES – Arethusa
A fine amalgamation of software-generated synthetic sounds, treated field recordings and soprano saxophone that spells out its legitimacy over four tracks, each different in terms of sonority and, at the very least, engaging when not veritably transfixing. Such is the case of the opening segment, a painstaking vacillation of elevated pitches – some of them pretty smooth, other uneven – that initiates a series of natural glissandos and shrilling adjacencies whose near-incandescent vibrancy is essential for a thorough purging of the auricular conduits. The second track is adequate if a little more normal, rolling percussiveness of the wooden kind and stinging whistle mixing in various degrees of cohesiveness. Not groundbreaking, but nice. The third subdivision increases the distance between the events, also extending the brain’s faculty of anticipating a sonic occurrence while still remaining astounded by the glory of selected sudden appearances. It happens with imposingly resounding bumps and pulses, in turn eliciting subsonic ramifications amidst solid materials caressed by Rives’ extemporaneous sibilance, mystifying harmonics, bumblebee buzzes and aborted honks. A ceremonial aura permeates this section, intermittently turning it into a quasi-paranormal experience. The record is ended by a piece juxtaposing severe upper partials and whispered talking, the whole surrounded by less decipherable manifestations, grainy hissing and sub-quaking drones. I could have done without the vocal constituent; however, this remains a completely fitting conclusion for a frequently magnetizing release.
LUCIO CAPECE / LEE PATTERSON – Empty Matter
Capece plays soprano sax, bass clarinet, preparations and sruti box (featured in a delightful drone piece called “Sostener”, one of my favourites), while Patterson is active on CD players, pickups, eBowed springrods, springplate and hazelnuts. The duo is endowed with a considerable percentage of mutual receptiveness, a factor that often transforms even the most ordinary occurrences into dazzling sounds. The harmonic substance of a single pitch can become, pertinently magnified, an ascetic choral hymn. The coincidence of frying pan activity, reiterated notes and unpromisingly vague rattling heard in “Fervesce” is outright splendid, among the disc’s top episodes, immediately followed by the affecting thickness of “Ventilar”, an improvisation that exploits the junction of echoing metals and squealing insinuations (the latter made me look out of the window twice to see if cats were doing damage somewhere in the garden). Underscoring the activities, the steady throbbing of a low-frequency underworld keeps us prepared for a display of power that instead remains merely hinted, unexpressed. Persistently acute intrusive emissions by Capece attempt to limit a latent tendency to needless lavishness (with all that menacing jangling, you never know), confining the interaction in face-to-face dialogues between regal roar and gritty roughness. In “Coriolis”, old-fashioned, but still efficient percussive patterns are supplemented by the intrinsic features of their original source, giving life to dissentient trance tarnished by rust, symbolizing a routine that is both physical and rational yet, somehow, lets the victims get a glimpse of non-illusory methods for escaping.
THE SEALED KNOT – And We Disappear
Music performed by Burkhard Beins (percussion, objects), Rhodri Davies (pedal harp, eBow) and Mark Wastell (double bass, bow and beaters). The immediate feeling, as we’re listening to the splendidly rich pounding with which this single 38-minute improvisation begins, is that Wastell has replaced the sepulchral nature of the beloved tam-tam by taking advantage of the analogous qualities of the bass which – aptly stimulated via arco (… and beaters?) – enhances our will of comparing those stifled hits to sounds that might directly be connected to the vibrational/irrational essence of perception. The most in-your-face aspects of this set are probably represented by the myriads of overlapping cells engendered by Beins through his click-and-scrape abrasive artillery, with which he produces sheer ruggedness, static groundings or lopsided patterns. Davies stands behind glowingly terse materializations of an otherwise uncatchable evanescence, putting the unlimited duration of the bowed pitches at the service of the inherent concept while keeping an eye on an unfathomable harmony, only expressible by musicians in perpetual state of alertness. The paths followed by The Sealed Knot are completely visible, not hiding secrets or dangers, yet one constantly experiences a sense of ignorant frustration, a “there’s much more than this” belief emphasizing their rigorous instrumental interrelation. Obvious disparities turn into a marvellously harmonious corporeality, outward-looking intuitions leading us to a zone where details, names and sources don’t matter anymore. All we need is closing the eyes and welcoming the sublimation, ultimately lulled by a massive synthesis of auspiciously beneficial symptoms. The conclusive rarefaction – three men pushing gestural nakedness at the forefront in a parallel exhibition of dynamic control, before raising the intensity level for the very last time – is a virtual fusion of the inexistent extremities of an endless cycle.
LORIS – The Cat From Cat Hill
Patrick Farmer, Sarah Hughes and Daniel Jones share an interesting timbral palette that, in addition to recognized colours and devices (the omnipresent eBow, tapes, piano, turntable and electronics) reveals items that I couldn’t accurately envisage – what is a “chorded zither”? – and a couple of semi-biological sources (“wood”, “natural objects”). Even more attractive to these ears is the aural outcome, to the point that there’s a good possibility, as of now, that The Cat From Cat Hill might represent my pick if someone forced me to choose a single title in this batch of gorgeously nonconforming albums. This music gathers all incidents under an umbrella of worried reflection, mixing rustling/liquid noises, humming power, vinyl-related imperfections, remote human activity and a discrete scent of solitude. Picture an August afternoon spent standing in front of a solitary industrial plant and trying to identify its mechanically generated voices rather than getting compulsorily tanned on a beach together with thousands of other unlucky individuals. Barely noticeable details become, as the time slips away, cardinal elements of important transitions between dull materiality and painful transcendence; the sense of estrangement from the surrounding reality is enhanced by our concentration on the repetitive quality of a passage, before being instantly awakened by analytical juxtapositions achieving the maximum extent of psychosomatic impact thanks to their uncongested heteromorphy. As the trio manages to combine motorized and organic, stasis and progression, composure and anguish – suddenly opening things up with magnificent rays of hope, as it happens around the tenth minute in “Sophie” – we’re appreciative of being a part of the course of action, mere observers of this strange world of domesticated interference and influential signals.