By Nick Metzger
This recording from Paul Lytton and Evan Parker marks their golden jubilee as musical collaborators and good friends, the title serving as a tip-of-the-hat to their first duo record Collective Calls (Urban) (Two Microphones) which was originally released on Incus in 1972 after they'd already played together for a couple of years. I've spent a good deal of time the last few weeks enjoying both albums and noting similarities and differences, and so it follows that this review is colored by the lense of that exercise. Gone are the electronics and prickly intensity of the 72' sessions, interchanged here with distinctively refined technique and a confederation secured through the blood-and-guts of a half century of collaboration.
The material that comprises the original set was recorded in a loft space in London over the course of two days. And while the recording quality is very good, the loft space and analogue equipment definitely color the ambiance. The current album was recorded at a studio in Chicago over the course of a single day, presumably using modern digital devices and systems. This difference manifests in a similar fashion to viewing old photographs of young men having fun in an informal situation, versus crystal clear digital portraits of the two masters they've become (though I doubt there was any lack of fun in the latter sessions). The song titles are snippets of text from Elias Canetti's autobiography "Party in the Blitz", which is set during the London Air raids of WW2. Many of Canetti's references are to Hampstead, where Lytton spent his adolescence. Parker said that Lytton found some of the passages rather moving, having lived away from England longer than he lived in it.
On "...the dissent, that began with the Quakers?..." rustling percussion is tinged with breathy calls and functions as a sort of rhythmic, staccato parley between the duo as they establish their footing. The next piece "...confused about England." finds Lytton quietly working over his trap set, opening up once Parker reveals himself with pad clatter and his unique constructions. On the third piece, "England feels very remote to me." Parker hints at snatches of melody, seeping Coltrane reconstructed through fractals. Lytton likewise bears tinges of Rashid Ali...perhaps I'm projecting, perhaps not, you can judge for yourself. On "Alfreda was always especially cordial to me" the salt and pepper percussion lays down a supporting structure for the forward and backward melodies, stout and daft, neither coming or going (both coming and going, both forward and backward).
"...becoming transfigured.." dredges descriptive saxophone passages in a menagerie of breakables. On "The bonfires of Hampstead Heath." the bustle of barely there skins and pads gradually accumulates energy, and then boils over. For "What has it become entangled…" Parker strings together hefty metallic globules, varying in tonal color, set against the thudding counterpoint of Lytton's kick drum. "How tight knit was England then!" starts with the slow decay of metallic soundings and reed pops bubbling from a spring, beckoning the listener downstream with it's momentum, and eventually roiling into whitewater. On "...beheading their own King…" the saxophone floats on the sizzle of the percussion before abruptly submerging and going quiet amid the lingering effervescence. The last track "Each thing, the one, the other and both together would amount to the truth." emerges slowly from silence, Parker envisaging in a single breath over Lytton's humidity, after which the duo dovetails into epilogue.
Friends for the sake of friendship making sounds for the sake of sounds. Enduring the passing of seasons and the chasm of distances and wheeling back around now and again to strike sparks in shadow, to rekindle the flame. When asked to share the story of the duo's lengthy history (which Bill Shoemaker's excellent liner notes highlight), Parker eluded to a (brilliant) piece by the poet and music journalist Paul Haines (whose book of collected works "Secret Carnival Workers", I might add, was co-edited by our own Stuart Broomer), also called " Jubilee ", which includes the following passage, which struck me as an appropriate conclusion to this piece:
" All sounds are immigrants of course (The first thing we hear, the last thing we recognize?). None is intent on creating a past; in fact, for a sound to be curative (an attribute highly esteemed by them), it must be capable of being forgotten differently, which may explain why some sounds are sent out uncorrected: To check."
Thoughtful and insightful review, thank you. Absolutely top notch recording that I've been enjoying more each time I listen to it. So much depth in these dialogues.
Thanks very much, definitely one of my favorites of 2020 so far.
Yes, thank you for the background info on this that adds perspective to the interactions. Is it just me or does it seem that there have been a lot of top flight recordings already this year?
I agree, absolutely stellar music thus far this year. It's come when we need it the most too.
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