BARREL – Gratuitous Abuse


Alison Blunt: violin; Ivor Kallin: violin & viola; Hannah Marshall: cello

A while back, Emanem’s honcho Martin Davidson responded bitingly to a writer who lamented the excessive continuance of one of his label’s CDs by inviting him to listen to smaller parts of the music in order to dilute the aural weariness. This kind of tactics would not work in any case with Gratuitous Abuse, a rattling album from 2011 soaking with immense technical know-how (and, that’s right, irony) that lasts a little less than 80 minutes and should be enjoyed as a totality to embrace its artistic consequence from A to Z. The four tracks, all recorded live with the inherent “on-location presences” of a quintessential improvisation gig (including voices of toddlers to whom, at one point, Kallin responds with vocalization of his own), mainly deal with concepts of precarious counterpoint and choppy (a)tonal/timbral modification without any sort of forewarning.

The literature of wooden corrugation presented by the trio is a joy to hear, well beyond the squeak-and-scrub facade (which, incidentally, lies at the basis of the group’s name – “scrape the bottom of the barrel”, etc.). Outpourings of dishevelled superimpositions abound, urgent acceptance of non-resident upper partials yielding harvests of insupposable clusters (quoting again from Davidson, “they don’t write these chords”). Apparently, “smoothness” is considered a foreign word; and yet, a singular proneness to an off-balance melodicism of sorts delineate orchestral paragraphs that the most dogmatic audiences might even come to take account of. Decades of instrumental practice along and against the tradition blended inside an intermutual jargon that takes something from the classic and the absurd in equal doses. Heterogeneous composites causing inflammatory euphoria.

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