The second recorded collaboration between Alfred 23 Harth and New Zealand’s John Bell – a conscious multi-purpose percussionist and bower of various sorts of object – materializes three years after 2015’s Camellia, released by Bill Shute’s Kendra Steiner (go for it, too). Besides having originated the track titles, the very Mr. Shute offers an active contribution to this enthralling melange of creative spurts, his deadpan voice reciting snippets of the open-field poems for which he is justly renowned. All of this lodged in a rather lavish package comprising a substantial booklet – “Cooperation” – gathering the visual and textual fruits of the trio’s combined actions from 2013 to 2017.
If this was not enough for the imperishable collecting specimens, there are still 55 minutes of unpigeonholeable acoustics for you to wonder about first, and cherish later. By now the experts (including the latecomers) have memorized the rule: when Harth is involved, discard what’s incontrovertible in the name of a biotic (im)materiality as vivid sonic emanations detail what an insensible simpleton would call a “dream”. Or a nightmare, perhaps, for those whose conception of polyphony is necessarily connected to a resolution. There’s no resolution in this ceaseless search for inevitably ephemeral answers; unable to grasp the latter, we somehow feel indebted to the partakers for letting us at least keep the intuition.
Harth and Bell have been developing a strong bond over the last period, and it shows. The duo appears as a sole entity, merging several issues related to the emission of a tone and the possibilities of manipulation of its conformation and shape. In terms of overall sonority, the strident/charming divergence becomes a logical solution whenever one lends an attentive ear to what’s born within a given mix. The same happens with the juxtapositions of quasi-singable melodies by Harth’s reeds and glowing chords from Bell’s vibes carried on across environments of studio-produced noise (notable example, “Art-illery Breakfast”).
However, never the brain is afforded to settle on an actual context. “Abstraction” is the password, and “no genre” the reply to the password recovery question; the textural gravity and dynamic balance shift systematically, and you just have to follow that whimsical stream. Many times one feels caught in a psychedelic ritual without a direct association of the body; Shute’s poetry fits perfectly at the right junctures, his delivery guiding the listener during the awakening phases of an improving, if somewhat destabilizing experience. It must be noted that Harth and Bell use their voice as well; this writer particularly appreciates “Worried Men & Wooden Soldiers”, where Mr.23 wheezes something like “I know” (corrections welcome) in a milieu of electronic disfigurements and sombre metallic pulses.
Campanula is an exemplification of the infeasibility of an accurate report when – to paraphrase Shute’s description of Harth’s approach – far-sighted artists open the doors separating diverse types of expression, and walk to the other side. There’s much more than meets the auricular membranes when it comes to a work like this, a means of connection with states of the (non) being that, one way or another, express our deepest humanity. That which may be replete with curiosities, fears and beliefs but (barring the trademark cosmic unintelligence of selected “raconteurs of the unknown”) is ultimately defined by the acceptance of an inescapable fallibility.