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Monday, November 14, 2016

John Butcher & Michael Duch - Fjordgata (Confront, 2015) ****

By Stef

Backlog 4.

Last year, at the Jazzfest in Trondheim, Norway, British saxophonist John Butcher and Norwegian bassist Michael Francis Duch recorded this unusual performance. Unusual because to my knowledge Butcher has recorded only one duo album with double-bass before (with John Edwards), and also Duch has - in his more limited discography - a predilection for playing with other string instruments (harp, violin, other basses, guitar), and often with musicians with whom Butcher has played.

On the other hand, it is not so unusual to find them together because of this connection with the British minimalist scene emanating from the AMM, Prévost, Tilbury and Cornelius Cardew legacy. And what they play here is founded on that heritage, but adding to it. Duch is also strongly influenced by Pauline Oliveros "Deep Listening" approach.

The sound of this performance is quiet at times, cautious, as if every note is something precious that needs to develop and show its different shades when coming to live and disappearing again, yet less quiet and less sustained than with the real minimalists, because the calm precision is at times shattered by bursts of energy and sonic power.

Sometimes only one musician plays. Sometimes the other. They give each other lots of space. They give themselves lots of space to listen, to create, to deliver, building up anticipation and tension, and the result is at best when circular breathing and bowed bass create intense and often dark atmospheres, or uncanny listening experiences.

I do not know whether they had ever performed together before, at least not to my knowledge, and definitely they had not recorded together before, yet the interplay for a first meeting is strong. They are likeminded spirits, both with a gold-diggers approach to sound, and with success because out of this vibrating meditative darkness a panoply of shining nuggets are brought to light.