GARRY TODD / DAVE SOLOMON / JOHN RUSSELL / NIGEL COOMBES / STEVE BERESFORD – Teatime

Emanem

Teatime is a precious document digitally reissuing 1975’s Incus LP in its entirety, with the addition of a boomingly grimy cassette outtake that made me feel the itch to release some “me-and-my-two-friends-in-a-room” free-for-alls jealously kept in a closet since eons ago. It is the aural testimony of the activities of a quintet of musicians who were intent in playing candidly, in the deepest acceptation of the adverb, halfway through the last fifty years’ greatest decade as far as sonic significance is concerned. An evident lack of forethought is what defines most everything contained herein, performed – in various combinations – on tenor sax (Todd), violin and low grade electronics (Coombes), piano and toys (Beresford), guitar (Russell) and self-styled percussion (Solomon). All is palatable with relative ease despite the absence of fashionable compromises and technical neatness, revealing principles of nonconforming artistry making an awful lot of sense in that period yet probably perceived today as naïve, to say the least. Producing diverting sounds via the atypical handling of an instrument was the spark for repeated moments of ironic mayhem and constructive tension. Acordingly, the “brutal editing” lamented by Martin Davidson in the liners is, oddly enough, a plus; the many bizarrely truncated segments anticipate in fact certain slicing techniques that are common practice nowadays, minus the sincerity. Improvised music works when we cannot afford the comfort of an even vague predictability: Russell’s jagged impoliteness, Coombes’s lyrically tarnished openings, Solomon’s overwhelming crushing of anything remotely recalling a regular pulse, Beresford’s eternally amusing anti-academic joyfulness, Todd’s drooly degradation of reed linearity mesh in barely plausible spurts. The outcome is unwilling to accept a hair-splitting description: “collective” in the truest meaning, frequently amazing to observe. Like a car graveyard on a solitary road, but with the engines still chugging happily.

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