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at92     Goldsmiths

Angharad Davies - violin                                   Rhodri Davies - electric harp, melodica

Michael Duch - double bass                              Lina Lapelyte - violin, voice

John Lely - objects, electronics, melodica         John Tilbury - piano

1 - Sarah Hughes ‘A Reward is given for the Best Inframammary Fold No.4’  (2015)   13:09    youtube extract

2 - John Lely ‘First Page for Five’ (2015)   17:59

3 - Goldsmiths Improvisation, 31.08.15     19:43                youtube extract

4 - Jurg Frey ‘Circular Music No.6’  (2015)   7:00

Recorded at Goldsmiths College, 31st August 2015


“Another classy release from Another Timbre, which has drifted away from improvisation towards composition – witness their bestselling box ‘Wandelweiser und so weiter’  - while often still featuring the same musicians. ‘Goldsmiths’ offers a nice balance of both music-making methods: a trio of compositions plus a gorgeous 20 minute improve by the whole group.

Fans of odd titles get a treat from Sarah Hughes: ‘A Reward Is Given For The Best Infra-Mammary Fold No4’ sounds like a quote from a junior doctors’ rag mag. Rather than faintly covering the space, like some of Antoine Beuger’s music, Hughes’s piece occupies it fully, as instruments move from melodic events to hovering chords that build in intensity. John Tilbury’s piano adds rich colour to the strings (Angharad Davies and Lina Lapelyte on violins, Michael Duch on bass). Meanwhile John Lely’s electronics hang a backdrop and Rhodri Davies supplies subtle magic of the what-the-heck-is-he-doing kind,

Lely co-runs the London concert series Music We’d Like To Hear. His ‘First Page for Five’ is a systematic progression of staggered string and melodica chords. It’s a conceptually clear way of writing that connects with the English experimental tradition embodied by Michael Parsons. Beauty is achieved by pitting the slightly inhuman system of the composing against the very human and fragile performance.

Tilbury returns for the flatly titled ‘Goldsmiths Improvisation’, which is maybe the disc’s highpoint. Finally Jürg Frey’s ‘Circular Music No.6’ is a journey through a super-delicate undergrowth of noises. The Swiss composer is an old Wandelweiser hand, and a decade ago his ‘Unhörbare Zeit’ was a cauldron of restraint for string quartet and percussion. The current piece is a deceptively simple mix of circular scraping motions, plus Lapelyte’s beautifully performed, hardly there vocalisation. Quiet but headspinning.”

Clive Bell, The Wire

“Goldsmiths is a British college and the great reunion of Angharad Davies, Rhodri Davies, Michael Duch, Lina Lapelyte, John Lely and John Tilbury. Some of them are pretty young, the others play for decades. All of them are interested in composition, improvisation and experimental music, so it was natural to realize Sarah Hughes and Jürg Frey's pieces, a John Lely work and a long time improvisation together. All these works are delicate, quiet, pretty melodic and cyclic, and very well played.”

Julien Heraud, Improv-sphere

“For the last fifty-odd years there’s been a grey area between what is composed and what is improvised. At home, I’ve been listening to some more new CDs from Another Timbre. Goldmsiths is a neat collection of four pieces for an ensemble of exceptional musicians equally adept at playing from a score or making it up. Everything is new, from last year: a piece each by Jürg Frey, Sarah Hughes and John Lely, and an improvisation. The pieces here alternate from being governed by a relatively strict, reductive principle of organisation (Frey, Lely) to music which opens up room for wider interpretation (Hughes). The improvisation is, theoretically, entirely free, but here the situation is not so simple.

The musicians take the same “hazardous course” described by John Tilbury in yesterday’s post (and Tilbury is the pianist on this disc.) They respond to the immediate circumstances of the musical situation with keen awareness of mood and a sureness of touch. Their performances of Frey’s Circular Music No. 6 and Lely’s First Page for Five are subtly coloured with a sustained sense of atmosphere.

Although it is more diverse in its material, the improvisation could easily be taken as a composed work, of a piece with the rest of the programme. This feeling is compounded by the opening work, Sarah Hughes’ A Reward is given for the Best Inframammary Fold No. 4, which sounds as though it may be a companion improvisation. The piece is in fact composed, with a determined structure, contrasts, gestures and harmonic material all specified. How the contents of this structure are to be presented is left to the musicians. Here, the music flows and ebbs as though through a spontaneous collective activity, even though these elements and overall scheme were determined in advance by the composer.

In the improvisation, with no hierarchy, the musicians must find their own constraints. They do a remarkable job of falling into the background when needed, providing tiny but essential shading that gives the music life. This becomes particularly clear in the strange, affecting coda.”

Ben Harper, Boring like a drill

Situated in New Cross, South London, Goldsmiths' College is part of the University of London and has a reputation for producing creative graduates in a range of subjects. Visual artists Lucien Freud, Bridget Riley and Damien Hirst all studied there. Among musicians, the college's alumni include such notables as John Cale, Linton Kwesi Johnson and three-quarters of Blur (Albarn, Coxon & James). In recent years, the college has increasingly acquired a reputation for musical exploration and experimentation, partly due to the presence on its teaching staff of pianists John Tilbury and Dave Smith, plus its regular hosting of concerts of contemporary compositions and improvised music. All of which makes it fitting that this CD release is titled after the college where it was recorded, in August 2015.

There are plenty of connections binding together the musicians on the recording, and the list of their names is enough to whet the appetite for the music itself. The list is dominated by Tilbury on piano who was in a well-established trio with Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies and Norwegian bassist Michael Duch, the three having recorded the excellent Cornelius Cardew Works 1960-70 (+3dB Records, 2010), and played a trio concert the day before this recording. The harpist's sister, violinist Angharad, was in a duo with the classically-trained Lithuanian violinist Lina Lapelyte. The line-up was completed by John Lely, on objects, electronics and melodica, a former student at Goldsmiths who had studied with Tilbury. "First Page for Five", a piece by Lely, is one of three compositions performed by the six players, the others being the exotically-titled "A Reward is Given for the Best Inframammary Fold No. 4" by Sarah Hughes and "Circular Music no. 6" by Jürg Frey.

The Hughes and Lely compositions have similar structures, with the strings and electronics creating appealingly full, rich soundscapes. On the Hughes piece, Tilbury adds his own trademark, an economical use of arpeggios that fit in perfectly with the rest but repeatedly bubble to the surface and command attention. The album successfully blurs the boundary between composed and improvised music; the most successful track is also its longest, at just under twenty minutes, "Goldsmiths Improvisation, 31.08.15", a group improvisation that fits in seamlessly among the compositions without breaking the album's flow.

Throughout, Duch's bass solidly underpins the ensemble passages and provides occasional rumbling climaxes. In some ways it seems remiss to single Duch out, as all six musicians contribute to the group's sound, and the music would be poorer without any one of them. The album closes atmospherically with the understated Frey piece, which pairs a textural landscape of scraped sounds and hisses with similarly restrained vocals from Lapelyte. It is a fitting way to conclude an album that seems certain to stand the test of time and improve with age.”

John Eyles, The Squid’s Ear

Goldsmiths offers up a selection of three modern classical compositions & one length improvisation, played by a six piece collective with respected  British pianist John Tilbury as one of it’s members-  he is known as one of the foremost interpreters of Morton Feldman's music, and member of British free improvisation group AMM.

The release appears on British label Another Timbre- who specializes in all manner of modern classic, modern composition, and improvisation based releases. The CD comes in the label house style packaging; which is a mini white card gatefold with minimal black texts. And a  four colour artwork cover- taking in a colourfully shape based modern art painting by artists/ improvisers Lina Lapelyte & Rhodril Davies.

Joining Tilbury( paino), we have the following players: Angharad Davis( Violin), Rhodri Davies( Electric Harp & Melodica), Michael Duch( double bass), Lina Lapelyte( Violin & Voice), and John Lely( Objects, electronics, and Melodica).

First up we have a piece by Sarah Hughes- whose work covers a fair few mediums, going from modern composition, sculpture, installations & improvisation.  The track here is a 2015 piece entitled “A Reward Is Given For The Best Inframamary Fold No 4”. It’s comes in at the just over the 13 minute mark, and sets the tone nicely for the rest of the release with it’s taut, sparsely simmering, and angular unfold. The piece is built around a series of often sustained string drones & the occasional picks. Along with slowed & moody piano notation, and hazes of simmering (though mostly subdued) electronics. The track starts in quite a slowed & considered pace- with the slow angular plods of piano meeting  tight string drones, saws, and neck fiddles. But as it progresses we get the addition of sustained high pitched electronics, and more string layers, and by the ninth minute it’s built up quite a focused, intense, and airless sonic picture. After  the 10th minute things pare back once again.

The other two already composed pieces come in the  form of “First Page Of Five”- which is a 18 minute composition by  John Lely, that finds slowly circular & angular drifts of strings, carefully picked melancholic-to-doomy piano darts, and subdued electronic simmer 'n' rattle blended together.  

And “Circular Music No.6” by Swiss composer Jürgen Frey- this is the shortest track here at seven minutes.  Here we have very ghostly yet taut blend of: compressed & short double bass darts ‘n’ fingers, breathing sounds, circular scraping textures & string neck fumblings, very  controlled melodica blowings, and minimal string saws. The tracks creates a great alien & edgy feeling, and really it all felt over too quickly. I could easily listen to this type of thing for twice this length.

The other track here is of course the group improvisational piece, and this is entitled “Goldsmiths improvisation 31.08.15”.  This just under twenty minute opens with a distant, yet high pitched grainy electro smog- out of this comes a blend of clustered & lulling piano notation, & swirl slow-mo webs of strings saw.  From here onwards the track nicely moves from more stripped back yet airless, to more taut & tense build-ups.  Going  from beds of electro simmer sewed with tighter meshes of compacted string saws & murky melodica. Onto doomed & slurred piano wonders ridged by swirling malevolent blend of string simmer, and eerier fumbling double bass. Through to eerier textural scratching laced with inside piano pickings & sea-sick electro harp sears. And beyond. All told it certainly is an eventful & creative improvised track, which is full of surprises.

So in conclusion Goldsmiths is a most worthy journey into modern classical composition & edgy improvisations, with each of the six piece putting forward a most subtle yet tautly atmospheric performance.”

Roger Batty, Musique Machine

“Some of experimental music’s top performers gathered at Goldsmiths university to record compositions by Sarah Hughes, John Lely, and Jürg Frey. Hughes’ ‘A Reward is given for the Best Inframammary Fold No.4’ strikes a hesitant, perhaps slightly nervous tone, John Tilbury’s piano meandering over long held notes alternately steady and piercing from Angharad Davies and Lina Lapelyte’s violins. Michael Duch joins in with deep double bass pluck, while the discrete shimmering and glowing background tones presumably come from the harp of Rhodri Davies and the electronics and objects of Lely. The whole things adds up to create a quite surreal, maybe even grotesque atmosphere: humour, horror, uncertainty, and anxiety all rolled into the same rictus grin. For me, there’s something about this piece and its title that suggests complex emotional responses to events that could be social and/or personal; the music’s way of looking such events in the eye without reducing the complexity of its response is perhaps what makes it so compelling.

In Lely’s piece ‘First Page for Five’, the strings play long, uneven chords separated by silence, with different layers entering and exiting at different points, in groups or singly. Lely’s take on the formula is tonally quite a bit darker than many other versions I’ve heard, though this tone stops just short of becoming a mood (which to me is an entirely good thing). As well as the compositions, the group found time to record a 20-minute improvisation. Tilbury’s melodious piano returns to lead the way, twinkling over slow chugging and rumbling chords to take the piece down a dreamlike path. At one point, volume and density builds until the music becomes a heaving, quivering mass, before subsiding again. Towards the end, the piano takes up low held chords while Davies and Lapelyte’s violins circle and caw, tailed by the quiet ringing of electronics. Despite the subdued end to the improvisation, it’s still quite a big leap from there to Frey’s sparse, brief ‘Circular Music No. 6’.”

Nathan Thomas, Fluid Radio

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