none (-t)
Matchless MRCD 54

Partly a misnomer, despite its title — which is discussed in rather too much detail in the booklet notes — NONE (-T) isn’t really a recording by a nine-piece band. Instead it’s an up-to-the-minute aural snapshot of the London improvisational scene that radiates from the workshop run by venerable AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost.

With nearly 74 minutes of music jammed onto 10 tracks, it highlights the skills of these experimental Prévostians — to coin a new catchphrase for a scene that loves schisms and categorizations. The full nonet only performs on one track — the first and longest — and eight of the musicians — minus one of the three [!] pianists — combine to play on the last one, which clocks in at 9½-minutes plus. All other tracks feature various combinations of the players. Overall the disc provides a valuable showcase for the ideas of younger experimenters who are long past debating which sounds, noises and non-sound should be classified as music.

All apprentices must have models, and it seems apparent from “(-n) 1 (-t)”, the nearly 13-minute nonet track that AMM’s history of sonic breakthroughs animated these nine players. Especially noticeable is the foreshortened piano pattern that runs through the piece. It relates to the sort of chords John Tilbury produces with AMM. But the three keyboardists aren’t haunted by the spectre of Tilbury. Sometime near the end, one of them — perhaps John Lely who has already recorded in a trio featuring alto saxophonist Seymour Wright — pounds the keys in the sort of random fashion which would never appear from the precise Tilbury.

Much of the other auditory space is taken up by the output of the horn section. Wright and tenor saxophonist Nathaniel Catchpole use whistling whispers, stentorian honks, squeaks, false fingering and flattement to make their presence felt, with their sounds becoming more atonal and more glottal as the piece unrolls. Trumpeter Jamie Coleman, who is part of Prévost’s quintet along with Catchpole, even squeezes out a minute, brassy toot. The drummer is on side as well, offering up microscopically detailed clatter from his percussion kit. An underlying drone is provided by either the computer of Sebastian Lexer, a signal processing researcher who is also a freelance teacher, or the preparations of Ross Lambert, a native of Northern Ireland, who also plays guitar and pocket trumpet on other tracks.

Coleman appears more upfront on “ten:on”, where trumpet mouthpiece kisses and peeps plus slurred grace notes are framed in irregular vibratos from the reeds. As one saxist smears out a series of rambling, flutter-tongued notes the other picks up a single overtone and holds it for many measures. Prévost scrapes a drumstick over his ride cymbal and adds some feathery shakes from his hi-hat as the undefined “moving objects” provided by Greek-born Marianthi Papalexandri are miked to provide additional percussive elements.

These heuristic exercises appears to be most fruitful on “n (one) t”, featuring Coleman, Lambert, Lely, Prévost and Wright. Operating like a Free Music combo, the track mates Wright’s bird-like piercing whistles, elongated tones, tongue slaps and Bronx cheer reed spittle exercises with brassy blasts that could only come from Lambert’s pocket trumpet. Meanwhile the percussionist creates reverberating tones and heavy footstep rhythms around them.

On other tracks, the group splinter into smaller groupings. With only Coleman, Catchpole and Wright present, “no (net)”, for instance, highlights a wavering, chromatic trumpet line resting on a bed of reeds. One saxist provides the bass continuum, while the other produces blaring, claxon-like vibrations and finger percussion. Maybe it’s really the tenorman’s elk calls you hear. The hubbub reaches such a crescendo at one point that it could remind some of the shattering waves of sound produced by 1960s’ New Thingers.

All pianos and computer, “(-n) onet” gets its echoing rumble from the electronic instruments plus a collection of crinkles, crackles and buzzes that seem to be coming through the soundboard of the keyboards. When unknown objects are abrasively scraped along the strings, the resulting tone proves unconditionally that the strings are made of unyielding copper and steel.

Further tracks explore the sounds and timbres of silences, birdcalls,

sibilant reed split tones, a collection of tongue slaps, low intensity adagio chords from the pianos and reverberations produced by striking and bowing various parts of the drum kit.

Most appropriately heard as a collection of individuals’ work rather than as the output of a regularly constituted band, this nonet is most valuable as a sonic workshop. Although most parts of the CD are satisfying on their own, other creations merely open up new musical possibilities for these musicians to further explore.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. (-n) 1 (-t)*+&^#~@$% 2. tone (-n)#@ 3. non, et*&^$% 4. (-n) o (-n) et+^@$ 5. (-n) onet&^~@ 6. Tenon&#@% 7. n (one) t+#~$% 8. no (net)^#$ 9. to ne n~@% 10. ten:on*+#~@$%^

Personnel: Jamie Coleman (trumpet)#; Seymour Wright (alto saxophone)$; Nathaniel Catchpole (tenor saxophone and elk calls)^; Ross Lambert (guitar, pocket trumpet and preparations)+; Alex James& and John Lely~ (pianos); Sebastian Lexer@ (piano and computer); Eddie Prévost (percussion)%; Marianthi Papalexandri (moving objects)*