Click here to [close]

Friday, April 5, 2024

Evan Parker and Henry Dagg - THEN THROUGH NOW (False Walls, 2022)

THEN THORUGH NOW slipped by when it was released in late 2022, however, this duo recording of Evan Parker and electronic sound sculptor Henry Dagg is certainly worth a quick consideration. The music is a collection of free improvisation featuring the two musicians in a conversation through analog electronics.

Dagg, a former sound engineer for the BBC, is a builder of rather unique instruments. Here, he plays his built for the occasion, pre-digital Stage Cage*, which captures and reprocesses Parker's soprano sax as well as generate its own burbling tones. Such collaborations, per se, is not new musical territory for the saxophonist. Parker has long been involved with electronics, going as far back as the late 1960s with the Music Improvisation Company and later through his own work with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, which picked up speed in the 1990s. Every collaboration is different though, and on THEN THROUGH NOW, Parker blends his trademark solo saxophone language playing with his Dagg's oscillating electro-acoustic musical machine.

The recording begins with 45 seconds of near silence before a flutter of activity from the keys of the saxophone. A slow build up of wind passing through the instrument leads to a circle of nascent tones that start to blend with electronic waves. These waves are not hard cut digital tones, not even blips and bloops, but rather curvaceous musical shapes that serve as atonal melodic accompaniment to Parker's own excursions. As the improvisation continues, new sounds and possibilities emerge. About 15 minutes in, Parker's notes are being reprocessed, reformed, and replayed, generating some bracing sonic textures. At the 20-minute mark, Parker's intense circular playing is skewered by pulsations from Dagg's machine. Throughout the 56-minute recording, the duo discovers dense knobs of sound as well as revels in relaxed, open fields. Overall, quite a worthy journey.

THEN THORUGH NOW's label, False Walls, is currently working on releasing a 4 CD boxset of Parkers' solo recordings in the fall, honoring the saxophonist's 80th birthday.

* More about the fascinating Stage Cage from the liner notes
The Stage Cage includes four valve test-oscillators, a pair of ring modulators, frequency shifter, chromatic zither, and a variable tape delay system (consisting of two quarter-inch tape machines, eight feet apart – the first machine records, and the tape runs past moveable playback heads to the second machine, allowing several replays). Henry's main performance interface is a ‘dynamic router’: a five-key controller, which is the bridge between most of the components of the Stage Cage.