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hum - rhodri davies, matt davis, samantha rebello & bechir saade

“On a first casual listen I seriously undervalued this disc.  Many of the microdynamics with which it works were lost on me.  But after a couple of more careful listens I could appreciate the truly high quality of this music.  It’s certainly not one to listen to in a rush.  This is a concentrated music exploring the essence of sounds, certainly reductionist, but not extremely so.  Or better, it’s a musical process which moves forward in little jumps and spurts, and is subtly frenetic.

A strange kind of beauty moves within hum: that of a microworld shifting ceaselessly through phases of construction, collapse and reconstruction.   A world of squeaks and small shrieks, of gusts of breath and mournful laments, and of fragments of detritus which blow around and then dissolve in every corner.  Most of the cd has a kinetic vibrancy, little sonic structures emerge and build up with a vague energy, then are suddenly abandoned before their potential has become exhausted in inertia.  In the midst of these alternating phases of construction and collapse, hidden behind apparently empty spaces, small movements occur and are picked out by a faint light.  Then sometimes the music abandons itself to moments of extreme introspection as the wind instruments produce sounds of abstract melancholy, and impromptu drones, thanks mainly to Rhodri Davies, revolve and then slowly evaporate.”     

                                                                                                                 -     Alfio Castorina,   Kathodik  webzine

“ ‘Hum’ relaunches the quest for new expressive methods in that area of EAI which mainly deals with constituents such as air, saliva, friction.  The instrumentation makes for some pretty damn fine moments of fascinating  interaction, with Matt Davis’ electronics often constituting an element of menacing doubt amidst a detailed suspension characterized by various types of overtones that peep first, clash later, then look for a meeting point  somewhere in the middle. “Two” wears the timbral components down to frazzles, giving the music a far-reaching anxiousness miles away fromself-indulgence.  On the contrary the music takes advantage of the whole dynamic range to uproot any hope from those who expect vibrations of peace and love to sweeten an improvisation.  

                           It’s virtually impossible to quantify individual contributions to the body of the performance, despite the extreme clarity of the recording. While breath is obviously a common denominator -  although fragmented to minuscule crumbles, oppressive exhalations and guttural snaps - it is when Davies’ harp resonates vigorously that the music assumes a totally different weight, transforming the seductive, if somehow acrid grace of Rebello and Saade’s microscopic elaboration into a muscular buzzing torso that David Jackman would almost envy.  Tracks like “One” and “Four” bring us back  to the golden era of reductionism,  but the tendencies to silence are soon removed in favour of gentle droning and mechanical tampering amidst piercing shrieks and malevolent low-tone resurgences.  A distinct urban cloud underlines the seagull-like harmonics at the beginning of “Five”, scraped strings and scattered noises dematerialising pigmentations and suggestions down to a combustible absence of meaning.”                                             -                                                                                                               -      Massimo Ricci,  Touching Extremes

“It’s odd to think that the micro-gestural sound world of musicians such as these now have a deep tradition on which to draw.   Improvisers have been mining the lower boundaries of dynamics, and densities for long enough that the vocabulary and strategies are no longer the radical affront they once appeared to be.  Today's listeners are attuned to the flickers, breaths, scrapes, and hisses to the point that they can get past the surface textures of extended technique and focus on the music that is being created.   Rhodri Davies and Matt Davis are both well-established improvisers in settings like this.  For Hum  they are joined by flutist Samantha Rebello and bass clarinetist Bechir Saade for a series of intimately detailed collective sound explorations.  While Rebello is a new name, Saade is a member of the Lebanese improv scene along with Sharif Sehnaoui, Christine Sehnaoui, and Mazen Kerbaj.   The instrumentation is harp, trumpet and electronics, flute, and bass clarinet but of course that does little to describe the music.   Instead, what jumps out is a strategy of collective circumspection as the four assiduously construct spontaneous tracery.  There is the clear weighting of sound and space; durations of tone placed against scrubbed and scraped textures; velocity of activity balanced with inky stasis.   While electronics are present, their use is understated, placing a much stronger focus on the acoustic interactions.  Fluttering breaths, sputtered reed pops, bowed and scraped strings, strident flute overtones, and brassy exhales, buzzes, and valve clicks create a taught balance of density and transparency.  Their palate and attack eschews line for more of a sense of collective sonic choreography and it is here that they really develop their group sound.  For all the subtleties, this is not about muted silence.   Instead the four have woven together improvisations full of variegated lucidity informed by careful listening and radiant interaction.”                                

                                                                                   -      Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise

“In hum the instruments are transformed by the fingers and lips of the players into the gurgling, whistling and ululating sounds imagined by the Italian Futurists, producing flickering noises of smoke and of burning.  These are small sounds, as though written on the wind, or traced in dust, or like particles of spittle rubbed into the ears of the blind so that they can hear again, or the lame so that they can see.  Musique concrete  created directly from the players’ mouths, often grey on grey.  The bass clarinet gurgles with phlegm from the very bottom of the lung, the flute trembles fearfully like a fluttering leaf.  The trumpet rattles like the death rattle itself, or shrills like a badly oiled machine.  Davies’ harp is simply one object amongst others, an objet trouve, a frame of wires on which the wind pulls and the frost creaks.  Davis sets in play some electronics, but the sounds are indistinguishable from the rest.  A classic of the Bruit Secret aesthetic, of the Arte Poverissima, which sits as if naturally on the benches of this world amidst the wind and rain.”                                                                                         -   Rigobert DittmannBad Alchemy

“All the musicians play their part in making this improvisation a complete piece of music.  It is difficult to highlight any of the participants over the other, however, I must mention Matt Davis’ ability to use his electronic sound collages as a key part of the music, I am almost tempted to say as an instrument.  The intensity, the closeness and the interaction on this CD are unsurpassed, and are some of the most interesting I have heard in a very long time.  This is a unique and sublime ensemble that deserves the highest recommendation because of the creative and artistic quality of the musicians, who complement each other fantastically in their interactions and interplay.”           

                                                                                                  -  Henrik Kaldahl,  Jazznet Denmark


“Christian Wolff once remarked that the silences in Morton Feldman’s compositions were “extravagant”.  That’s truer still of the musics categorised as electroacoustic improvisation.  When the sounds are isolated from one another by periods of silence, the ambience of the space they inhabit becomes a key factor.  Such is the case with hum.  Davis’s electronics and Davies’s harp amplification are used very sparingly indeed, and Graham Halliwell’s recording faithfully captures the music and the warm but not overly resonant acoustic of the environment in which it is played.  

             One of the charges levelled against this type of music is that there’s no immediacy to the players’ interactions, and because the interactions are so coolly calculated they’re more akin to composition than improvisation.  Not so here.  On track two the players’ dynamic interactions generate a considerable amount of energy, and this is, without doubt, an improvisers’ music, process rather than goal-oriented, balancing assertion with reaction.  The way they move from one moment to the next on track three, patiently developing the music individually and in consort, is impressive.  After the first few plucks of the harp strings and emphatic blasts of air through trumpet and flute, to the bass clarinet’s wavery glissandos, the track builds in volume and intensity before winding down in the final minute.     Hum  proves that music doesn’t have to be loud and hyperactive to be exciting.”          -   Brian Marley  - The Wire

“Another good one.  Generally soft and careful but with enough grain to maintain interest.   My first hearing of Rebello (flute) and Saade (bass clarinet); both do nice work.  Track 4 ("Four") especially enjoyable.”   

                                                                                                                               -     Brian Olewnick , Just Outside       

“Microcosms of whistles, hisses, breaths, scraping sounds.  Small sounds in general which seem to fall (or crumble) into even smaller ones.  The recording quality is excellent; you have the feeling of being inside the sounds.  At times I’m puzzled as to whether the source of particular sounds is electronic (present in a really subtle way) or whether it is still the acoustic instruments themselves. ‘Hum’ has numerous interesting moments like this, resulting in a deeply satisfying whole.”                                                                     -  Piotr Tkacz,   nowamyzyka

“This quartet would appear to offer you the last word in restraint, yet just listen to the understated power on the second track  for example, which is like being slowly simmered in a frying pan with one ounce of clarified butter.”    

   E                                                                                               -  Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector   

“A fortuitous typo: in trying to explain the stealth of Rhodri Davies’ music, “subliminal” is rendered as “sublaminal.”   The accidental pun on AMM’s methodology is useful not only in placing the music of the harpist and his colleagues, generally, in a historical context, but also addresses their approaches to articulating underlying form in the moment and the foundational use of elemental sounds to do so. The resulting music can have an alluring elegant starkness or the bracing iridescence that is frequently achieved on hum.  It is an approach that comes off as intrinsically  relaxed, in that the sounds move and coalesce seemingly of their own accord, requiring only a small initial push by the musicians; subsequently, musicians are able to lay back, listen, and anticipate in a way simply unavailable to them in the busier modalities of improvised music.   Shapes morph unpredictably, given the array of timbres they can produce.  The constituent parts of the quartet’s improvisations frequently have the snuggly joined quality that is largely found in composed works.  Davies and his counterparts are extending the trajectory of improvised music, but not on terms determined by their predecessors.”                                            –     Bill Shoemaker    -   Point of Departure

at04      hum

Rhodri Davies  -  harp

Matt Davis  -  trumpet & field recordings

Samantha Rebello - flute

Bechir Saade  -  bass clarinet

recorded at the Red Rose club, London, June 2007

total time:  42 : 46

youtube extract

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