Saturday, December 14, 2013

Common Objects - Live In Morden Tower (Mikroton, 2013) ****½

By Stef

Somehow several musicians - British and German - have found a second home at Mikroton, the Russian label, that offers opportunities next to Another Timbre, the UK avant-garde label where we find the same musicians.

"Common Objects" are Rodhri Davies on harp, Lee Patterson on amplified processes and devices, and John Butcher on saxophone.

All three men have played together before, in duo or trio settings or in ensembles with other musicians. What they share is a clear disrespect for tradition and a relentless search, deep into sound, not only of the instrument itself, but of the sound in an environment, full of wonder of what they might find, yet sufficiently in control of their instruments to bring something of value.

The album kicks off with three solo pieces. "Spatial Principle" starts the album with a single piercing tone on the electric harp. If you have any idea about what a harp sounds like, please forget the concept, this is somethig else. Other tones, somewhat warmer, lower and extended, replace the piercing intro, generating some rhythmic changes - barely audible - or does this happen only in my mind?

With "Grade A Fancy", John Butcher enters the scene, with high notes, tongslaps, windy sounds and birdlike chatter, through circular breathing almost dialoguing with himself, moving the short piece into many twists and turns, of volume and silence, excitement and calm.

Patterson delivers "Thoracic Pattern", a pure electronic drone, and strangely enough, possibly the piece with the most human warmth, especially when the track softens - or can I no longer trust my heart either?

The real "pièce de résistance" is the long "Breathless, Sodden Trash", on which the three artists engage as a trio. The difference is immediately clear, there is more density - even if that is a somewhat futile word here - but especially with stronger musical dynamics, with voices that find each other and amplify the sounds that erupt out of the silence, or grow organically, slowly, deliberately and unpredictably, to be welcomed by even lesser known sonic friends, welcoming them in this world beyond silence, chattering and dancing full of suprise and excitement, then calming down again, enjoying the languid pleasure of sustained notes, superimposing them on the same journey with similar sounds that are yet also totally different, with sudden outbursts of the sax, with some emotional anxiety presenting its story, evolving in absolute incomprehension - and distress even - among the colleagues - are they arguing? - are they celebrating? - yet soon they settle back in little sounds like bubbles in water, and resign themselves to silence, their natural default position, when no more energy is left for physical exertion.


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