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“I don't think I'd heard Eastley's music since the old Obscure LP.  My loss and foolishness.  This is an absolutely lovely and entrancing site recording with contributions from Eastley's sound sculptures (mechanically induced, though as natural sounding as could be), his arc (described on his MySpace page as "a monochord of wood and wire, which is scraped, bent and flexed into an orbit of amplified effects") and Davies, seemingly staying pretty much with his ebow on the harp.  Not all smoothness and light--it grows quite troubled at points--but dwells in the space very convincingly.  Might lose a bit of steam in the last few minutes, but an engrossing disc overall.”            

                                                                                                                                   -   Brian Olewnick, Just Outside


“A tedious, irritating and mentally exhausting day at work today. Coming home though I listened to Rhodri Davies and Max Eastley’s Dark Architecture, yet another new release on Another Timbre, this one a CDr as part of the AT Byways series of discs. I actually found myself listening so closely, absorbed in the music that I very very nearly forgot to get off of the train when it got to Didcot…

Dark Architecture is a nice release. It features a lot of tinkling, wooden clicks and pops courtesy of Max Eastley’s sound sculptures, and similar pings and taps and a few electronic drones from Rhodri Davies’ tabletop harp. It also features a lot of fireworks going off outside the room in which it was recorded. The deliberate musical sounds just seem to work really well with the fireworks, so comfortably well in fact that all sorts of questions occurred to me on listening to the album for the first time a week or so back. After about ten minutes or so of the recording, just as a series of irregular clicks and crackles is passing by the listener’s ears the unmistakable sound of fireworks can be heard, first in one little flurry, and then again a few moments later. The fireworks fit the music superbly well, as if they were meant to be there, and so this is where I started to ask questions.  The recording was made at an arts centre in Bracknell, Berkshire.  This immediately struck me as an odd place to have recorded the album as neither of the musicians are resident in that particular town.  It was also recorded just a few days before Bonfire Night, the evening when in the UK we “celebrate” in a somewhat bizarre manner the execution of Guy Fawlkes by pretending to burn him again on a big fire as fireworks are let off.  The strange recording location, coupled with the date made me wonder if the recording had been timed to coincide with a display of fireworks, so that the sounds could be deliberately incorporated into the music.  The fireworks sounds on the recording are also very clear, suggesting to me that perhaps a microphone had been placed outside to capture these extra sounds.

It turns out that none of the above is true and that the fireworks we hear were entirely incidental and came from a local display in the park adjacent to the recording space celebrating the festival of Diwali. The musicians clearly do allow the fireworks into the music once they begin, but it seems that there was nothing premeditated at all, and the way that the pyrotechnic sounds seem to fit the music is down to a combination of coincidence and sharp musical ears ready to accept and adapt to whatever was thrown at them. That the disc really revolves around the moments with the fireworks is testament to these two fine musicians who used it as a central point for the piece rather than seeing it as a hindrance.

Dark Architecture is great anyway. That the music feels full of deep tones scattered with sparkling little pops and scratches it doubtlessly in part a result of knowing the fireworks are there,  but I feel that even if they weren’t the music would still suggest this to me. Or would it? Is our processing of a piece of music really altered so dramatically by an incident like this so that we hear it differently? When did fireworks first enter my mind on that first listen? Before or after I actually heard them? I can’t remember to be honest, but I find it interesting that an external event such as this should alter my perception of a piece of music so dramatically. Yet another AT goodie anyway. Add it to your order from the label if you haven’t already.”                                                         -   Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear


“Annette Krebs & Rhodri Davies – Kravis Rhonn Project  (Another Timbre)

Max Eastley & Rhodri Davies – Dark Architecture (Another Timbre)

While these two albums were realised under very different circumstances, they’re united on sonic and philosophical levels.  The attunement that electric harpist Rhodri Davies and his confederates achieve is profound.  Tabletop guitarist Annette Krebs assembled Kravis Rhonn from recordings that she and Davies made in her apartment.  Strings scrape and pluck, outboard electronics sputter and abruptly drop out, both players working with small gestures so similar they could be playing a single instrument.  It’s easier to differentiate Davies’s e-bow hums and cirrus pitches from the ghostly groans and lonesome whistles of Eastley’s arc, a self-constructed, flexible wood and wire monochord, on the live recording Dark Architecture, but their confluence is so perfect it’s pointless to do so.  Particularly since the larger point of both records seems to be the productive coexistence of each duo’s playing with potentially disruptive elements.

Dark Architecture enjoys the involvement of both planned and unplanned randomisers.  The original plan was for the two men to play along with eastley’s sound generating sculptures, whose occasional ringing and clatter contribute a laconic commentary, sparse yet pertinent.  Less polite are the fireworks from a neighbouring park that start up about 11 minutes in, so loud you couldn’t have blamed the duo for stepping out until the display was over and then trying again.  Instead, the fireworks become part of the music, less predictable and more insistent than Eastley’s sculptures, yet all framed by singing sine tones and bowed sighs.


The disruption on Kravis Rhonn is presumably more planned.  Krebs is credited with tapes, which consist mostly of music and voices snatched off the internet.  German newsreaders, archived sound poets and traces of rap and traffic noise rise up through Krebs and Davies’s shimmering surfaces, pockmarking them like potholes on city streets, occasionally cutting the playing short.  The duo seem to be hanging back, trying to figure out how to fit into this rough surface rather than roll over it.  It’s a sublime ride.”                                   -  Bill Meyer, The Wire


“The music here is the unedited recording of a concert held at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, Berkshire, on Saturday 1st November 2008. Importantly, that date is four days before November 5th, Firework Night, when Britons remember Guy Fawkes' 1605 plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and mark the occasion by letting off fireworks.

Davies plays electric harp while Max Eastley plays arc, an instrument of his own making which he bows to produce drones. Both musicians are accompanied by four of Eastley's sound sculptures, which are powered by irregularly phased motors and produce unpredictable sounds. The recording opens with silence from which small sounds slowly emerge. The drones and hums gently ebb and flow, punctuated by quiet percussive sounds creating a delicate piece full of gestures.

Ten and a half minutes in, a resounding bang punctures the atmosphere. The bang initially sounds like a microphone being knocked. However, it was in the park immediately outside the concert hall and it signals the start of a firework display that continues loudly for the next ten minutes, with its sounds clearly audible inside. Punctuated by the unmistakable sounds of crackles and explosions, Davies and Eastley show themselves to be true troopers. They persist with their performance and turn the interruption to their advantage by integrating its sounds and rhythms into their music and reacting to them. Their previously muted soundscape becomes more percussive and dramatic.

Once the firework display subsides, the duo subtly recreate the beautiful soundscape they had constructed before the unplanned interruption. They expand it, giving it more depth and richness before bringing the piece to a satisfying conclusion.   Altogether, this is a truly remarkable document of an extraordinary occasion.”

                                                                                                                   -  John Eyles, All About Jazz


“Dark Architecture is a single 34-minute improvisation by Max Eastley and Rhodri Davies on invented instruments (most of them contact miked) and amplified harp, respectively. Eastley, a visual artist and inventor, was at the heart of non-idiomatic improvisation in the late 70s, working with Alterations' Peter Cusack and David Toop as well as the London Musicians' Collective. Here, he plays his "arc", a wire and wooden sculpture bent and bowed, as well as motorized objects and incidental bits of metal, wood, and the like. The focus is on environment, as the players' enveloping, discrete yet interconnected occurrences produce a landscape of unfamiliar sounds. It's not always clear who's playing what at the outset, though Davies' electric tabletop harp could be the generator of low-toned feedback amidst the rattling wood, odd-interval clacks, and unearthly bowed rumble.
Dark Architecture was recorded on November 1, 2008 in Bracknell, not long before Guy Fawkes Day, and about ten minutes in the subtle cracks of fireworks outside the venue enter into the sonic environment – at first delicate snaps, but soon building into pops and bangs impossible to avoid. Where previously the duo had focused on small sounds and space, they found themselves confronted with a prominent "third member", and rather than quit playing, they integrated the sounds of the fireworks into the proceedings. As soon as the first isolated outdoor pop is heard, the landscape changes – dissociated knocking becomes subtly rhythmic and, as strings of fireworks are set off, Eastley's arc rumbles throatily and jumps into furious high-pitched whinnies. As bow and feedback wail, bells clink and explosives shuffle, one gets a sense of progression – the minimalist harp tapping and furious plucking seems somehow composed, as if accident may have, in fact, begotten structure. Even as the musicians return to their taps, bells and rolling marbles in the closing ten minutes, one senses the whole event has subtly shifted. On its own, Dark Architecture is certainly a beautifully-realized recording, but it requires a stretch of imagination to visualize the proceedings – we're lucky to be even a fifth of the way there with a disc like this.”   

                                                                                                                      –   Clifford Allen, Paris Transatlantic


“Max Eastley has been working with his own invented instruments and sound sculptures for more than thirty years, collaborating with David Toop (Obscure label LP from 1975), as well as Evan Parker, Hugh Davies, Paul Lytton & Paul Lovens.   Not being able to see what exactly Max Eastley is playing, we can only hear the results. Also, Rhodri Davies, who once played with the trio IST at Tonic, also plays odd sounds on his harp. The sounds that this duo make are fascinating but not so easy to describe. I hear what sounds like toys, bells, ringers, banging on boxes, bowed material, a bicycle buzzer, rubbed surfaces, small fan tapping on metal, etc. It sounds like (Fluxus artist) Jo Jones Tone-Deaf Music Company, where the instruments play themselves. What I like about this is that the sounds evolve slowly and spaciously and have a natural sounding effect. A careful, cautious and splendidly formed musical landscape.”

                                                                                                           - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery


“Part of Another Timbre’s microseries Byways, a highly delicate collaboration between Max Eastley playing his sound sculptures and Rhodri Davies on electric harp. A half-hour of fugitive interventions, carefully selected sounds, whispered dialogues, and rapture found in extremely attentive listening. Demanding but convincing.”

                                                                                                           -  Francois Couture, Délire Actuel


“Eastley’s sound sculptures & arc (practically an electro-acoustic monochord) and Davies’ electric harp mesh like the rain and the night in November, depicting chiaroscuro atmospheres with preference for the “scuro” half. Strings put in continuous vibration by a knowledgeable use of the eBow produce echoes of painful reminiscence at the beginning, redirecting the listener’s attention towards that area of the psyche where misanthropist illuminations push the most sensitive ones away from Facebook-fuelled desperation. Apparently comatose dynamics turn into wobbly apparitions of mind-generated birds of uncertainty that we believed extinguished forever amidst firecrackers (real firecrackers, involuntarily trapped in the recording during a nearby celebration) whose distant lights help revealing corroded signs pointing to inevitability. The mixture of metals and flute-ish frequencies halfway through the piece provides a digression of sorts by establishing a mood of concreteness, pragmatism replacing preoccupation, but the humming order is soon restored, our membranes decoding customary hints of infinite purr underscored by glittering tinkling and cracking wood. Basically the essence of the whole is ritualistic, an improvisation attempting to evoke spirits of who-knows-what; the musicians do listen to each other carefully, avoiding gratuitous convolutions yet never really clear-minded, the result an intoxicating scenario with different metamorphoses and alterations with us acting as clandestine observers, a one-off expression rather than an instant composition for the ages.”

                                                                                                                 - Massimo Ricci,  Temporary  Fault


“Dark Architecture captures a fascinating meeting between Rhodri Davies (electric harp) and Max Eastley (sound sculptures and arc). Using his e-bows ever more deftly all the time, Davies manages to strike a fine balance between the sound of singing glass and tiny percussion. Eastley responds with a range of sonic detail that tends to anchor the sometimes psychedelic drones. The way he manipulates his constructions of wood and wire suggest that he’s both intimately familiar with its properties and also relishes its chance operations. A location recording from Arts Centre in Bracknell, this single improvisation unfolds luxuriantly, hesitating on occasion as if stretching its legs after a thaw. The sinuous tones establish multiple axes of relation, sometimes seducing each other and at other times seeming to squabble too. As the players settle in to the main section of the piece, the overall sound of the sculptures working in unison with Davies reminded me (oddly enough) of the boxy recordings Derek Bailey occasionally made with dancers (particularly a long staccato passage at about 20 minutes in). The music doesn’t so much come to a boil as it crests and somehow dissipates, revealing just a pair of morphing tones amidst gentle clatter. Good stuff.”

                                                                                                               - Jason Bivins, Bagatellen


“With a distinctly Cagean effect, Dark Architecture makes us more aware of our sonic environment – are these twinkling sounds coming from the record or is someone stirring coffee in the kitchen?

Max Eastley's work provides one of the earliest links between free improvisation and environmental music. Thiis is a connection which has especially preoccupied English musicians, among them Paul Burwell and Peter Cusack; the latest approach takes a mirroring approach, “finding” music within urban sounds and editing it into a musical picture, a process previously documented on Cusack’s Your Favorite London Sounds (LMC 2002). The topic is well worth researching, from the earliest sound landscapes of another improvisor, Alvin Curran, to the pioneering work of Giuseppe Chiari and Albert Mayr in Florence. This kind of work exposes the limitation of CD medium, because it requires the visual part, and so is poorly documented on record; however a special on The Wire‘s site (http://www.thewire.co.uk/articles/903/) provides at least still images, while a YouTube excerpt of Derek Bailey's narrated 1992 documentary “On The Edge” (http://youtube.com/watch?v=JtiQbUQvT7E) allows the listeners, with some effort, to associate sounds and sights.

Like many others, I want to mention in passing here that it's a crying shame that director Jeremy Marre’s Bailey documentary, which is one of the most insightful looks into the nature of music itself, is not available on DVD and circulates illegally and incompletely in poor quality VHS copies. The very quality of the images and the sound requires full DVD treatment, but my inquiry into its status with the intention of finding an interested company opened a Pandora's box of complications – a tangle of failed companies and catalogues bought by parties with no interest whatsoever in the music – and I quickly declared my inability to cope.

To return to the CD at hand, it does question the rules of the medium; while listening to it I opened Max Eastley's Myspace page and the sound emanating from there seamlessly fused into the CD, a fact that I guess would appeal to the artists. Eastley's instrument, succinctly indicated as “arc”, is a long and bowed monochord, remarkably similar to the “tromba marina”, an instrument so old that it was declared outmoded in the XVI Century (more than you ever will want to know about it can be found at: http://www.oriscus.com/mi/tm/index.htm). At the same time, Davies treats his instrument as a sound source, so there aren't to my ears in the whole record any passages where one could comfortably says “that's a harp.”

The protocol of performance recording – the CD documents a November 2008 concert – is shattered after the 10-minute mark by a loud explosion, signalling the beginning of fireworks. Not metaphorical fireworks, but real fireworks outside the venue. This adds a sort of percussive counterpoint that is quickly integrated in the music, a kind of “break” with the two musicians remaining silent. The explosions eventually become a regular part of the landscape, sounding at times oddly like drum rolls, allowing the two musicians to continue confortably their dialogue. After a grand finale and a kind of subsonic bang, the fireworks subside around the 20- minute mark. I am suddenly reminded of how Mario Schiano would often mimic the sound of fireworks, a Southern and especially Neapolitan tradition, to half-mockingly accompany the final, sometimes contrived crescendos of an improvisation. Nothing of the sort happens here – the burbling and crackling of the sound scupltures continue with the serenity of natural sounds, Eastley's monostring emits its whale-like toot, and Davies' harp is milked for eerie vocalizing, accompanying the performance to fade out into each listener's daily soundscape. “       Francesco Martinelli – Point of Departure



“"Po Under människans långa naturfilosofiska tänkande återkommer vissa urföreteelser som Jorden, Eros och Kaos. I det antika Grekland, precis som idag, sökte man naturens och skapelsens grundläggande element. Anaximenes var en av dessa som såg födelse och pånyttfödelse i vindens och luftens verkan. När den är tät blir den till vatten och när den förtunnas blir den till eld. Luft, syre, andning, var kvalitativa förändringar av en och samma urprincip, arche.

Luften är som bekant ett grundläggande element i många musikaliska sammanhang. Blåsinstrumentet, flöjten, är ett av det tidigaste arkeologiska fynden inom musikalisk teknologi. Men ljud skapas inte enbart med hjälp av den mänskliga kroppen. Det finns korspunkter mellan det mänskliga skapandet och naturen. Eolsharpan, ett instrument sedan antikens dagar, låter luften sätta strängarna i vibration och spelar en slumpens musik. Denna typ av vind- och stränginstrument finns i många kulturer och har uppstått i många olika former. I den moderna konsten har de fått en renässans i och med ”sound sculptures”, ljudskulpturer, där den estetiska upplevelsen inte bara förhåller sig till objektets rörelse utan också till dess ljud.

Sedan sextiotalet har
Max Eastley rört sig i gränslandet mellan skulptural konst, land art och improviserad musik. Olika grundläggande element har stått i fokus för hans musikaliska experimenterande där verken ibland är lika mycket performance och installation som de är ljudkonst. En del har kanske stött på skivan ”New And Rediscovered Musical Instruments” tillsammans med David ToopBrian Enos kortlivade bolag Obscure. På den skivan centrerades ljuden kring vatten och hydrauldynamik. På senare tid har Eastley arbetat mycket med vindinstrument, framför allt strängade sådana. Han har utifrån detta konstruerat ett instrument som han är särskilt förtjust i och som han kallar för just, arc. Det är inte helt lätt att beskriva detta instrument utan att man ser en bild på det (vilket finns t.ex. i Wire nr 291). Själv beskriver han det som ”a monochord of wood and wire, which is scraped, bent and flexed into an orbit of amplified effects”. Kort sagt kan man även hävda att hans ”arc” är en skulptur som kan spelas, eller ett instrument som också kan ses som skulptur.

Det senaste provet på Eastleys uppfinningsrika musikteknologi är skivan ”Dark Architecture” tillsammans med harpisten Rhodri DaviesSimon Reynells intressanta bolag Another Timbre. Skivan består av ett nästan 35 minuter långt stycke, ”TT”, som är inspelad i en konstpark i Berkshire. Davies är naturligtvis en utmärkt partner när det kommer till harpans utveckling. Till skillnad från Eastley bygger han inte helt nya instrument utan preparerar harpan med e-bows, fläktar och objekt. Men på det hela taget är ju även detta att skapa ett nytt instrument. ”Dark Architecture” har en spöklik atmosfär över sig, stycket framträder sakta ur skuggorna och sjunger tillslut så att hela rummet skorrar. Jag tror att stycket är platsspecifikt. Låga frekvenser uppblandade med närmikade metalliska objekt skapar en rumskänsla som bildar en intressant lek med distanser. Ljudupptagningen är på så sätt mer dokumentär än högkvalitativ, men det är inget som skivan lider av och definitivt inget som bör hindra en från att lyssna på den. “

                                                                                                                         -  Johan Redin, Sound of Music

[if anyone can provide a rough translation of the above review, we’d be very grateful!]


“На рубеже 2008/2009 годов британский лейбл Another Timbre начал выпуск малотиражных дисков, выжженных на домашнем компьютере. Пробным камнем стал альбом Centre Of Mass португальского аккордеониста Альфредо Коста Монтейро, который, на сей раз, написал получасовую пьесу для тарелок и резонирующих объектов. Несколько месяцев спустя, настала очередь аудио-инсталляции, запечатленной Саймоном Рейнэллом, владельцем лейбла, 1 ноября 2008 года.

Именно аудио-инсталляция, назвать иначе это действо не представляется возможным. Родри Дэйвис играет на электрической арфе, что, в прочем, не имеет принципиального значения: и акустические и электронные инструменты в его руках звучат одинаково. На второго участника перформанса стоит обратить особое внимание. Макс Истлей использует экзотический инструмент собственного изготовления, который называет электроакустическим монохордом – по всей вероятности, имеется в виду средневековый однострунный инструмент, снабженный звукоснимателем. Кроме того, в списке использованных средств значатся звуковые скульптуры, также, разумеется, собственного изготовления. Фотографии отсутствуют, но, судя по тому, как звучат эти конструкции, состоят они из набора поющих чаш, резервуаров с водой и пороховых петард. Известность этого музыканта, композитора и саунд-дизайнера носит локальный характер, так как первые выступления Макса Истлей на публике датируются 2003 годом.

Как это звучит? Как ни странно, вполне привычно: и для электроакустической музыки вообще, и для коалиций, в которые время от времени вступает Родри Дэйвис. Он использует электронные и традиционные смычки, игрушечные вентиляторы и разного рода механические устройства. В результате арфа хрустит, трещит, отдельные струны заходятся фидбэком. Его компаньон на протяжении всего получаса пытается обуздать собственноручно созданных электромеханических монстров, но, положа руку на сердце, удается это далеко не всегда. Вода послушно журчит в желобах, монохорд гудит, как терменвокс, но вот петарды совершенно не поддаются контролю и превращают пьесу в концерт KISS. Ситуацию спасает относительно низкий уровень громкости и более чем условная композиционная структура. Впрочем, учитывая тот факт, что действо носило неформальный характер, упрекнуть музыкантов не в чем. Публика желала зрелищ? Думаю, она получила их сполна. “                                                                    -  Dennis Vederko, Improv-Noise.org


[if anyone can provide a rough translation of the above review, we’d be very grateful!]



at-b02     dark architecture


Max Eastley - sound sculptures and arc

Rhodri Davies - electric harp


CDR


recorded at South Hill Park art gallery, Bracknell, near Reading,

during the exhibition ‘kinetic drawings’ featuring the sculptures of Max Eastley


TT: 34:30



 

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