Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre

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at06   a life saved by a spider and two doves

Max Eastley - arc  (electro-acoustic monochord)

Graham Halliwell - computer & electronics

Evan Parker - soprano saxophone

Mark Wastell -  tam-tam, metal percussion & harmonium

1. a carp gives a lesson in perseverance                        15:53

2. human fireflies                                                       14:27

3. the chessboard cherry tree                                     16:51

                                                           total time:    47:45

recorded at the church of St.James the Great, London, September 2007

“As George Lewis recently said, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between improvised and composed music.   It’s a distinction he would like to see dropped.  For much of its length this delicately nuanced recording could quite easily be a formal electroacoustic composition, an impression strongly reinforced by the fact that Evan Parker sounds curiously unfamiliar in this new grouping.   He’s well used now to working with electronics, but this was a first convocation of this quartet with Max Eastley, Graham Halliwell and Mark Wastell, and in the full but not unduly resonant acoustic of St.James the Great in North London, the four musicians move round one another with the gracious decorum and unfussy discipline of monks walking a prayer path.  The track titles taken from ancient Japanese folklore perhaps suggest another provenance, but there is nothing pictorial or impressionistic about this music.

                    Wastell’s metal percussion and the sliding tones from Eastley (or is it Halliwell?) sometimes recall honoured British improvisation of the kind associated with Ovary Lodge, who offered similar hostages to critical fortune by providing haiku-like titles.   This is estimably quiet music and eminently reasonable, which might seem a strange word in the circumstances.  Listen to Parker alone, insofar as one can separate even him from a shared soundworld, and he could be examining his sound and its processes rather than spinning a linear narrative.  One always tends to reach for ‘stillness’ as a shorthand for music of this kind, but that’s wrong too.  It’s all movement, but movement of a markedly abstract and ratiocinative sort, coming back to its own subtly altered premises at the end of each of the three pieces.  The notes suggest that, having embarked on this small pilgrimage at the recording, the group are now working regularly.  That’s excellent news.”                                                                                                       -    Brian Morton,  The Wire

“Two generations meet, it seems, Eastley and Parker on one side and Halliwell and Wastell on the other.  The music is from their  first meeting as a quartet, which has continued afterwards.  The improvisations here aren't easy to describe.  There are on one hand the electronic and electric-charged machinery, which provide a very  modern look, crackling, drone, static, but on the other hand there are the acoustic instruments, especially Parker's saxophone, that sound very traditionally improvised.  However most of the time this marriage works wonderfully well.   An endless stream of sounds colliding into each other, bumping but also carefully missing each other, like a near collision.  In that way each of the players knows how to avoid the other, but also it's a matter of respect for the others; each of the players gets room to play, to develop, take shapeand transform, noting what the others do and adding where necessary.  A great work. “         

                                                                                                                   -  Frans de Waard,  Vital Weekly

“These three improvisations, traced in the air of a London church, form one of the most beautiful sound landscapes of the year.  This is the first offering from a quartet which has become a regular grouping, and whose open and sensitive music reaches a high plateau of deep satisfaction.  There’s nothing forced or competitive about this meeting of generations and styles (which are certainly different).  It is a process of mutual connection; everything is placed with impeccable delicacy into the swirling mists and drones of sound, and interwoven with the furtive embellishments of the soprano.  Collective and majestic.”                                                                                                  -   Guillaume Tarche, Improjazz

“Eastley is a sound sculptor and instrument builder who here plays an arc, an “electro-acoustic monochord” of his own devising in the rich tradition of Harry Partch and Eddie “One String” Jones.   It’s a nine-foot long, wooden, single-string instrument that changes pitch with a flexing of the wood.  It’s also bowed and played with glass rods and its sound is altered electronically.  Graham Halliwell, who has previously concentrated his energies on saxophone feedback, here plays computer and electronics, while Mark Wastell plays tam- tam, metal percussion and harmonium.   Parker plays soprano exclusively.   As all that might suggest, there’s a lot of droning going on, and the most characteristic sound is wisps of high-pitched soprano saxophone against the slow, harmonium-like oscillations of the other instruments.   Even Wastell’s percussion is sometimes used for sustained sound, a deeply resonant gong shimmering through the electronics.  The occasional glittering flash of struck percussion emphasizes the heightened resonance of the church in which it was recorded, but with the further suggestion of Japanese percussion employed in a Buddhist service, an inevitable analogy in a CD with artwork and titles derived from traditional works of Japan.   Within its almost constant state, the music is always changing, sounds shifting and mutating.   There’s no easy way to describe it, index perhaps of one of its values.   The music is both stimulus and companion to reverie,  a work of great  beauty.”        -  Stuart Broomer,  Point of Departure

“Pioneer of European improvisation since the late 60’s, the saxophonist Evan Parker continues to unite and enter into dialogue with improvisers from all around the world and of all different aesthetics.  He has extended the sonic possibilities of his instrument through the use of multiphonics (which he has mastered to perfection) and the technique of circular breathing.  His playing - unlike any other - produces a fluttering kind of phrasing that is at once wavy, sinuous, hypnotic and meandering.    Here Parker is accompanied by musicians who are principally concerned with electronic and electro-acoustic treatments.  Max Eastley, Graham Halliwell and Mark Wastell construct a kind of dissolving backcloth, sometimes viscous but always substantial, which is tautened and sharpened by Parker in such a way that different layers are superimposed and interwoven to produce a dynamic and fascinating fabric.  The purification, the crystallisation of motifs, the tendency towards a reduction of elements down to that which is essential, is evident throughout the recording.  You can feel a strong desire amongst the players to reject all artifice, to abandon the tonal system and let the linearity of time be experienced as it is, alive in a pure alternation between presence and absence.”     -   Théo Jarrier,  Revue et Corrigée

“Eastley lets his arc drone, while Halliwell, known for his delicate Feldman-inspired aesthetic, here uses computer and electronics.   Wastell on tam-tam and metal percussion is the third source of the minimalistic waves of sound which blossom in sublime shifts of colour and light.  Only occasionally does Wastell’s metallic scraping make calligraphic marks on this canvas of sine-waves and gentle overtones.   And within this Zen-garden Parker is the twittering, pulsating, piping bird.  Here are found the secret sounds (bruits secrets) of  this music, as strange as a silkworm smuggled into a bamboo stick, as languid as slightly overcooked spaghetti, as suggestive as the nightsong of a koi, or the interior monologue of a moon-sheep.  And out of these craters emerges a silence which slowly envelops the whole landscape.”          

                                                                                                -  Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy

“Although Eastley and Parker may seem more EFI, while the younger Halliwell and Wastell are more eai, the reality is more complex and interesting.  The music straddles—and thereby renders problematic—the perceived division between Eurpoean Free Improvisation (EFI) and electro-acoustic improv (eai).   Parker is more subdued than ever, adding twittering and prolonged drone-like tones, but decidedly not dominating proceedings.  Sonically, he is an equal partner with the others; the whole ebbs and flows, creating a slowly evolving soundscape that has a foot in both camps.  Unlike anything else you will have heard.”                                                                                  -  John Eyles, All About Jazz

“An extremely exciting crossing of different generations and different ways of playing music.  Parker is more subdued and silent than usual, and this perfectly matches the other musicians in their creation of the slowly-evolving sound landscapes.  Endless flows of sound collide in and out of each other in complex and interesting bursts, making this a unique publication which is guaranteed not to sound like anything you've heard before - a beautiful and fascinating combination of musicians and instruments.”                                                                                                -  Henrik Kaldahl,  Jazznet Denmark

“These three improvisations were recorded at the Church of St. James The Great , a venue whose mystical quietness seems to actively contribute to the lesson in restraint that the music appears to teach.  Two voices are instantly recognizable:  Parker, his soprano saxophone locating the environmental sweet spots and abandoning typically reiterative outbursts in favour of delicate snippets of bird-like expressiveness, and Wastell’s tam-tam which materializes in rarefied moments, emerging from the background with the silent authority of a monk to assure everybody that a cosmologic order is going to be respected.  Eastley’s electro acoustic monochord and Halliwell’s computer and electronics  are not so easily attributable,  constituting the element of utter suspension that positively characterizes the most  fascinating segments.    In particular, on top of everything, the fabulous final minutes of The chessboard cherry tree where a minimal fluttering is the basis of a spellbinding alien counterpoint. The whole record has an undercurrent of unidentified nervous satisfaction, the listener unaware of what’s really happening yet ready to accept all consequences.   An album that leaves you speechless for a long time after its conclusion,  to ponder about the following move, both in the artists’ career and in your own life.”  

                                                                                                                            -   Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes  

“This recording presents a particularly intriguing look at the tradition of London free improvisation.  Here is a meeting of three generations of improvisers.  Evan Parker has had a venerable presence as both musician and organizer for the last four decades.  Max Eastley was part of a second generation of improvisers like David Toop and Paul Burwell who started playing in the mid ’70s.  These musicians brought in a home-made instruments and a notion of kinetic sound installations, and interactive electronics in an effort to further subvert habitual responses in collective settings.  Mark Wastell and Graham Halliwell, of course, have been at the forefront of a more recent generation looking to further extend collective interactions through concentrated focus on the minute details of technique, timbres, and densities.

                   The three improvisations proceed with a sense of considered shimmering scrims.  What is immediately striking is the sound of Evan Parker’s soprano.  His instantly-recognizable tone and sinuous phrasing snakes across the field of electronics and metallic shimmers.  The sonic field has a quavering sense of economy, unlike the more orchestrated lushness of Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble.  Wastell’s luminous fields of tam-tam resonance and harmonium drones constantly meld with Eastley’s Arc (a bowed and scraped single string stretched over a sound box and manipulated via a moveable bridge and real-time electronic modulation) and Halliwell’s electronic treatments.  There are flashes of Parker’s labyrinthine circular breathing, particularly on the second track, but while his soprano provides a linear thrust to the improvisations, the four players deftly avoid any notion of figure and ground.  By the final improvisation, they have truly synthesized a collective sound.  This release captured the quartet’s first performance together and the liner notes mention that they have continued to perform since then.  Kudos to producer Simon Reynell for capturing this inaugural effort.”

                                                                                                                           -  Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise               


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