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Monday, February 24, 2014

N.E.W: Motion (Dancing Wayang Records, 2014) ****½

Reviewed by Joe

N.E.W. equals Steve Noble, John Edwards and Alex Ward. I thought this was their debut release, but if you look at the comments section (below) you'll notice this their 4th release. Anyhow, "Motion" is one killing album. Firstly, just to clear up and any misunderstandings, Alex Ward, normally known as a clarinettist, is playing guitar on this record. Steve Noble - drums, has played with Rip Rig and Panic, Derek Bailey, Matthew Shipp, Peter Brötzmann and about everybody (whose anybody) on the UK free-jazz scene. John Edwards, whom you'll find liberally throughout this blog, is one of the UK's top bass players on the improv' scene. Add those elements together and that means that this is a free-jazz-rock-thrash-metal-noise-swing-impro trio, what more can you want?

Right from the very start the trio launches straight into hard hitting improvised rock. There's no gentle introduction to this trio, they fire off all guns immediately and then don't stop until the end of the album 5 tracks later. For anyone familiar with those great improvised sections in King Crimson's music, then this could be (sort of) the next step in the musical process. The guitar playing of Alex Ward reminds me of the style that Fripp used back in those early Crimson days, although here Alex gets a chance to push boundaries in other directions.

The music focuses around Ward's guitar which points the trio in the different directions. He winds his way through hard rock and even jazzy ideas on "Betting on Now" (tk1). Here Noble and Edwards support him with swinging drums and walking bass lines. In "Tall & True"(tk3) Steve Noble and John Edwards jump in with some manic rhythms, leaving Alex to gradually creep in with chunky riffing power chords to 'rock' the group.

"4th and Three" (tk4), the longest piece on the album (10 minutes) builds from a tremolo idea. The band spends plenty of time exploring space and rhythm, but as the music progresses the guitar gradually steels in with some slide (?) playing, squealing into high registers, whilst the bass and drums rock away - reminding me of some of Rip, Rig and Panic's musical outings. On "Motion" (tk5), the group bring many of the ideas heard on previous pieces together - silent sections, powerful guitar sounds, hard hitting drums and bass. What makes it all so listen-able is the way they develop the ideas 'tonally', and although there's plenty of sonic probing they always use rhythm or melody as a focal point - if you call distorted bashed chords melodic? 

Lastly I should mention the label Dancing Wayang. They produce a very small amount of releases and this is a 300 limited edition LP, as are all their records. Anna (Tjan), the founder of the label tells me that the first 100 copies include a bonus 3" CDR of the band live, so if you're interested, don't hang about!

Highly recommended - could be a good one for all those who like air-guitar also!

Find (and buy) the record here Dancing Wayang Records


muzicadevest said...

actually this is not their debut:)

Colin Green said...

I’m aware of three previous releases by this trio:
False Face Society (Incus, 2001)
Deadeye Tricksters (Bo'Weavil Recordings, 2008)
NEWtoons (Bo'Weavil Recordings, 2009)

I’ve not heard of “Motion”. Do you have any further information about it?

Colin Green said...

Sorry, "Motion" is the reviewed release (it's still early morning for me!). and as the previous poster has said, this isn't their debut release, but their fourth. All are recommended. The third might not be available as it was a limited edition LP, but I think it's available as a download. Apologies for adding to the confusion.

joesh said...

Hi Colin and Muzicadevest, yes indeed, sloppy on my part. I knew the group existed since awhile, but (unfortunately) there was no mention of other albums in their press release.

Anyhow, thanks for updating the info - look on the review.

@Colin - I'll send you some more info via the internal mail.

Colin Green said...

Joe, I enjoyed your review, and the reference to Fripp and King Crimson is apposite, and hadn’t occurred to me. I saw the “classic” line up of Crimson – Fripp, Bruford, Wetton and Cross – in 1974, after Larks Tongues in Aspic, but the tour after Jamie Muir had left to become a monk! They were tremendous. There’s a box set of numerous live recordings of that line up, which is well worth getting. Live, they really let rip.

joesh said...

Hi Colin, which is the box set with that line up? I have a few of the Crim' live sets, but not one with Jamie (who was excellent).

Thanks in advance.

Colin Green said...

The 4CD box set is “The Great Deceiver (Live 1973 - 1974)” but it doesn’t feature Muir:

It’s been reissued as two 2CD sets, and is available on Amazon.

joesh said...

Ok, yes I have that already. I thought it was something new with Jamie Muir.


FreeJazzJeff said...

I haven't listened to any of the selections from 'Motion' as yet, but if it's anything like their earlier 'Deadeye Tricksters' (or like 'The Great Deceiver' by KC, for that matter), then we are all in for a feast of the senses.

joesh said...

Hi FreeJazzJeff

When you get a chance to hear it I'd be interested to read if you see the connection between Fripp-ish guitar playing and Alex's style on this one?

Best - Joe

Thomas said...

There is also a new huge box of Crimson live stuff, fittingly titled The Road to Red, featuring 20 CDs of live material from spring 1974 and a new mix of the Red album (among other things). IIRC there is some overlapping with USA and the Great Deceiver set, though.

joesh said...

Thanks Thomas. I'd love some more Crimson material. I nearly cracked for the "Lark's Tongue" set but decided that listening to 10 versions of the same song really isn't worth it. I'd rather spend my money on new material, and going to concerts, which actually invests (in a small way) in helping the artist.

Fripp (for my money) is just creating a nice little pension fund, but that's his prerogative. After all he worked hard for that, and made some fantastic music at the same time.

Colin Green said...

Agreed: there's only so many times you can listen to another version of "Schizoid Man", but it would be nice - but not quite as lucrative for Robert Fripp - to have just the improvs, which this version of Crimson did very well.

In fact, they included some on "Starless", but disguised the fact, because as Bill Bruford explains in his biography, it was believed the record company paid less for live recordings than studio material, but they weren't quite sure!


joesh said...

That's a great story!

Is the bio' of Bruford interesting?