Thursday, November 29, 2012

Barrel - Gratuitous Abuse (Emanem, 2011) ****

Reviewed by Joe

Well, I'm not sure how this one got missed in our folders? Alison Blunt (violin), Ivor Kallin (viola/violin) and Hannah Marshall (cello) whip up a real storm using just strings and an impressive storm at that! Hannah Marshall is a name that pops up on this blog from time to time as one of the UK's leading improving cello players. Alison Blunt's CV (you may already know her) includes a long list of very diverse and extremely interesting groups and projects ranging from 'Tindersticks' to the Tony Marsh 4tet. Ivor Kallin seems to be a very interesting artist whose interests go in many directions including film, radio shows and poetry. The thread that unites these three players seems to be the ever evolving London Improvisers Orchestra, certainly a fine recommendation if needed! If you don't know the LIO then the best way to explain them is : a group that's often presented in programs as - 'LIO band members can be ....'

This is surely one of the most creative records of improvised music I've heard for quite a long time. The group really creates a canvas of sounds that makes you wonder if you're listening to something written by the late Elliott Carter. But no, this is a real improvised string trio of the highest order with not one boring second to be found on this album, it's simply stunning to hear these three at work on the CDs four tracks. Three of the pieces (Tks, 1, 3 and 4) are between 22 and 32 minutes, the second track 'Soft Porn, Hard Cheese' is just 1:51sec. The trio uses all available means to make music with their instruments and voices, and even though they mostly use the bows on strings to communicate there are plenty of shrieks and verbal mutterings to be heard as well. All these elements seem to come together at the perfect moment, never leaving you waiting to see what could happen next. What's also interesting is the polyphonic lines they constantly develop and which give an impression of a very contemporary string trio. They also attack their instruments : slapping them, scraping them, plucking, double stopping and anything else that can be used to make a sound.

I can imagine that this is one hell of a trio to see live, great energy and plenty of imagination. I noticed there's a video from 2009 on YT which will give you an idea of the trio in action (here Pt1 and Pt2). Although these pieces are shorter than on the CD, you do get to see how these three go way beyond abstract improvisation, managing to combine melodic ideas with extended techniques.

I think this is certainly an album that will bear up to repeated listening on many different layers. Great stuff, or as we say 'a sleeper'.

© stef


Ali Cat said...

Thanks for this...weird 'labels' for the page!!

joesh said...

Hi Ali Cat

Not sure what you mean by 'weird labels' for the page. Emanem is a really solid English label which specialises in modern jazz.

The album is excellent and I can recommend it if you're into good improvised sounds.

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