By Joe Higham
Although a bit a of a late review this has to be one of my favourite releases from the end of 2011. John Butcher and Toshimaru Nakamura show how man can meet machine, an almost perfect blend (and also quite a feat), something I wouldn't of thought about when talking about duets. I should probably explain that for those not in the 'know' - and I wasn't either - that Toshimaru Nakamura's instrument is a no-input mixing desk(*). As there's no-input he doesn't mix other people, just himself, reacting with either his own sound or another player, in this situation the sonic palette of John Butcher, for me one of the most revolutionary sax players to be found at present. In fact the combination and collaboration couldn't be more well suited.
So, sax and no-input mixing board react together in a perfect blend of sound - squeaks, crackles, screeches, hiss, and other such noises. John Butcher's style blends beautifully with Nakamura's sound world and there are many moments when one really wonders who is responsible for which/what sound. Of course this has no importance as the record is heard not as two instruments but a blanket of sound that comes from somewhere inside your hi-fi system. It's almost as if the circuit boards were able to talk between themselves, singing away as resistors, capacitors, inductors, relays and diodes all happily finding a prefect harmony. In fact it's quite amusing to find that you're sitting totally transfixed listening to the hiss of a mixing table, something that one normally wouldn't associate with musical sound, yet you wait and see what the duo will conjure up next. Like Nate Wooley's solo record Dusted Machinery makes one question the pre formed ideas on traditional sound and instrumental technique in music. Of course John Butcher's saxophone does come out clearly (as a saxophone) at moments, yet somehow it's as if he's able to commune in complete synchronicity with Nakamura's mixing board and make sense (and music, even if sound based) out of what could be seen as an abstract association.
This is certainly not a record for those looking for melody in the traditional sense. Even if the four tracks have names - Leaven, Maku, Knead and Kobasu - there are no tunes as such, this record makes a fine balance between free improvisation and the world of noise. However it is, for me at least, a record with a constantly hypnotic quality which draws you into the two improvisers sound world, which is totally original. A very successful collaboration and one that asks the question where they could go from here?
Buy from Instantjazz.
Buy from Monotype Records
* = If you wish to know what a mixing desk is then look it up on the web as it might take up a little too much room here to explain what it is, and of course how it works.