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at08   an account of my hut

Clive Bell - shakuhachi

Bechir Saade - ney

1 kindling                           08:53

2 an account of my hut       08:12

3 straw                              04:53

4 eaves                              05:00

5 cloud trapeze                   04:38

6 wisteria                           05:38

7 withered leaves                06:42

         total time                 45:31

recorded in Ealing, west London, July & October 2007

youtube extract

“During my first time with this collection of duets for ney (Saade) and shakuhachi (Bell) I found myself catching the single voice’s essence, mentally absorbing any droplet, any barely audible harmonic, and all the complex relationships between the wood and a pneumatically enhanced system of liquids which are here put in direct confrontation.  A wonderful experience, rendered memorable by a detail-splitting recording quality that lets the audience feel like the very embouchure of those exotic whistling tubes.  The notes just flow through our substance, into the core of self-examination.  I tried a second listen at low volume, and was astonished to discover that the spirit of the music was still there, certain aspects of its ritualistic charm even boosted by the connection that my ears and brain had already established during the first session.   Naturally, it helps that Bell and Saade are masters of the game, their intertwining sensitivity and intelligent choice of spaces, reticence and wavering vibrations - or the mix of all these ingredients - demonstrating what “inner ear” really means.  Music that spread-eagles between the silence of your reflections, arriving at the right moment to save us from idiot television programs and useless chit-chat to establish a poetic logic of no-nonsense and gratification of the remote depths of the soul.  A great, great record, confirming Another Timbre as currently the best English label devoted to improvisation, on a par with Emanem.”      

                                                                              -  Massimo Ricci,  Touching Extremes

“One would normally consider improvised music on the Japanese shakuhachi and the Arabian ney as an example of a 'meeting' of  two distinct cultures.  But not only are both instruments made of plants from the same grass family - the shakuhachi from bamboo and the ney from reeds - the sensitive exploration by  two fine improvisers also shows that as well as differences, they have very much in common, not least with regard to timbre and musical language.  The key words for this CD are harmony and tranquillity.  Thus the 'meeting' here is very smooth and without 'clashes', perhaps due to both musicians' deep interest in improvisation and timbre.  With his ney, Saade explores the links between Middle Eastern improvisation techniques and contemporary  music, while Bell uses his shakuhachi to interpret traditional solo and ensemble music, folk songs, and improvisation.  Both players move freely in and out of their instruments' cultural backgrounds and their own interest in contemporary music.

                        In 'Kindling', the communication between the two is peaceful, but powerful. They  exchange phrases with each other, while at the same alluding to the music idiomatic to their respective instruments.  Bell plays here a typical honkyoku phrase so slowly that  its cultural provenance is disguised almost to the point of inaudibility.  In 'Straw', the ney wails nostalgic phrases, which Bell layers beautifully, creating an ambiance of distant lands.   In 'An account of my hut', they seem to synchronise their breathing and to be playing the other’s instrument (on their own, of course).  And while improvised, this is a well-structured piece, in which the end possesses elements  of the beginning.  Both musicians have a wide palate of sounds and techniques and their exploration of multiphonics and timbre is remarkable, in particularly when they play with difference tones.    Simon Reynell, the owner of another timbre, label has done an admirable job of recording and mastering the music.  Mic’ing is close and intense, and the listener gets the feeling that the two musicians are playing only a few arm-lengths away.  The CDs hitherto released on this label seem carefully chosen and with a strong emphasis on improvisation.  It will be worth keeping an eye on this label – as well as on Bell and Saade.”         -  Kiku Day

“”The player’s breath is integral to the sound of both instruments, and phrase lengths are often dictated by lung capacity.   Although the music consists of two distinct voices and is amicably conversational, their conversations aren’t always about the same thing at the same time.   But even when they talk at slightly cross purposes, there’s a strong creative spark.  The mood throughout these seven pieces is not entirely relaxed, as there’s always a measure of uncertainty  about the direction the music is taking.   The tensions that ensue are part and parcel of genuinely free improvisation.     Bell, an ethnic music multi-instrumentalist who studied with shakuhachi master Kohachiro Miyata, and Saade, a Lebanese improviser who, in addition to ney, on other recordings plays bass clarinet and flute, bring selected items of cultural baggage to An Account of My Hut , but they place them in odd corners of the studio and unpack them only a bit at a time.   Bell introduces Kindling  with quiet, wispy curlicues of sound, and when Saade responds with rhythmic tappings and pressurised long tones, he slips into the shakuhachi’s lower register.  The range of articulations  on the remainder of the track, and on the cd as a whole, is just as wide.  When textures roughen, as on the opening measures of Wisteria , the breathy overtones of the flutes fly like molten sparks or chips of ice.”                              -  Brian Marley,  The Wire

“This is a disc apart which arouses a mysterious fascination and demands to be listened to in a state of contemplation.  Its mood is above all calm and serene, but emphatically not in a reductionist sense.  Its pure tones carve in the air ‘melodies’ from distant worlds and traditions, without sounding folksy thanks to the skilful playing which draws on the radical experience of recent improvisation, and to the undeniable mastery of the two musicians as they examine the most hidden, secret timbres of their instruments.   This is a sound which enchants, and which creates its own time, heedless of the stupid frenzy of this strange world which we have created.  It is a music which seeks out and excites a pure and extremely fragile beauty.  Long phrases brush against each other, slide one upon the other, unite and then separate, panting, puffing, tangling and then resettling.  It is clear from the first moments of the opening track kindling  what kind of internal journey the listener will be taken on:  a dialogue made of small, woody and percussive sounds, scraps of melancholy dirges which are blown around like leaves in the wind, gentle drones and long circular breaths.  There’s a certain sameness of mood throughout, which you’ll either love or hate.  But if you like it, it will be difficult to detach yourself from this music, which will continue to wander inside your head long after listening to it.  One of the most profoundly human expressions of recent improvisation.”

                                                                                                    -  Alfio Castorina, Kathodik

“Clive Bell is a master of the shakuhachi and a well-respected name in traditional Japanese music.  Bechir Saade from Beirut, although best known tas a bass-clarinettist, plays another Asian flute, the ney, on this album.  The meeting of the two is very interesting and filled with frictions.  Bell plays in a traditional Japanese style, while Saade, who has a deep knowledge of the musical traditions of the Middle East, produces a mixture of traditional and experimental music.  His playing combines low fidelity with brilliance, and the sound of breathing with the material sound of his instrument.  Saade is a unique musician coming from a world of sounds that is not commonly heard in free improvisation.

                The relation between the two musicians is complex.  Using Japanese traditions Bell employs tones, melodies and moods that create the impression of a traditional ink painting.  Saade responds by splitting his tradition and playing into small pieces that are explored one by one and/or put together in a completely new way, as a kind of distanciation of his music, a method of getting behind what is expected.  To start with he knocks discretely on Bell’s flowing melodic lines, and his special sound of wood combined with air fills the space.  He moves around his ney and picks new sounds from it:  hissing, sizzling or wet sounds as his breath meets the wood, creating a vibration that suddenly turns into an unexpected melody.  In answer to Bell’s playing he uses dissonances followed by consonances, adding to the Japanese masterplay an attitude that is completely individual.

                 This disc confirms Clive Bell as a Japanese master musician.  While Bechir Saade shows us something more than a deep knowledge of his region’s music; he shows us how improvisation can be a momentary fusion of many different traditions.   Saade paints in front of our eyes a variegated landscape, neither completely open nor lucid, but you can feel its form even when it is hidden, while Clive Bell traces a long, continuous path through this landscape.”                                                                  - Thomas Millroth, Sound of Music

An account of my hut stands out amongst the discs released at the beginning of 2008.  This is music full of wide-open spaces, with a tranquil tone, a certain lyricism and a richness of sound arising from its two instruments, which are similar in theory but very different in reality.  After listening to it I was left both with a desire to hear more and with a sensation of great calmness.”                              - José Francisco Tapiz, Tomajazz

“Kamo no Chomei, the 13th century Japanese poet and Buddhist monk, wrote a text entitled ‘An account of my hut’ in praise of the isolation and tranquilty he found living in a small hut on Mount Hino as compared to the turbulence of city life.  Who knows what he’d have made of an album named after his most famous text & yet recorded in the less than tranquil surroundings of Ealing, London ! (not that one can tell, thanks to the quality and clarity of the recording).  The combination of ney & shakuhachi  with two musicians of this calibre leads to some nice interplay in these improvised pieces.   Bechir is also featured on the earlier hum album, also on another timbre – well worth checking out.  Clive has been playing the shakuhachi (along with the Khene and other Asian wind instruments) for many years.  This isn’t an easy disc by any means and will need several more plays to finally reveal all of its intent (nothing wrong with that !).   There was something strangely familiar about it on first hearing and due to the almost scientifically precise close-micing I found that  listening at lower volumes allowed the 'music' to emerge from within the sound of the techniques employed (which are, of course,  interesting in thier own right).   This is one of only a handful of releases that places the shakuhachi, & the Ney for that matter, firmly  within the current flow of improvised music.  It makes one eager to hear more.”              -  Jez riley French

“These seven pieces are joint exercises in breathing and sounding together, and in lifting oneself high into the air in order to dance like withered leaves or to soar on a cloud trapeze.  The dark sonorous sounds of both instruments....hover in extended half-tones  and tremulous modulations which pop and splutter almost soundlessly.”                                                                 -   Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy

“British shakuhachi player Clive Bell seems to have found a soul mate in Lebanese ney player Bechir Saade.  The pair use a variety of extended techniques  to put their point across.  The main feeling one gets from their music is that of overt peacefulness and a state of rest.     It's not that the music  stands still, but rather that it doesn't particularly move into places of eruption, nor does it wander off into unchartered, murky waters.   Though the state of calm prevails, there are still moments of improvised vitality here.  The bursting, breath-popping, tongue-rolling  can clearly be pictured as the duo rev up their collective engines on "Withered Leaves".  Haunting, exhilarating but mostly calm improvisations that see the two musicians become one single unit, "An Account of My Hut" is naked and honest music of the highest timbre.”                 - Tom Sekowski, Gaz-eta



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