Broken Consort

Quakebasket 24

With consort defined as an ensemble, the musicians here have chosen a particularly apt name for their band. While the two extended middle tracks features all three improvisers, track one breaks out harpist Rhodri Davies and the final track features only trumpeter Matt Davis and cellist Mark Wastell.

Considering that each player – all British – extends his instrument’s output with electronics, preparations and amplified textures that create additional pulsations and triggered sound loops, subtracting players from the trio doesn’t necessarily result in what could commonly be termed a duo or solo performance. When all three are present and accounted for, the converse is true. Vibrational and timbral pitches heard don’t necessarily give the listener any idea of the size of the group or which instruments are being played.

Indeed the variegated tints the three induce from their instruments do much more than extend expected timbres – they transform each into idiosyncratic sound sources. Spectacular enough with sticks placed horizontally between the strings turning his harp into a buzzing steel guitar, Davies’ four minutes of improv are essentially an appetizer for the full meal produced later by the three.

Davies, who often improvises with saxophonist John Butcher and pianist Chris Burn, uses the physicality of his instrument to create a foundation of resonating thumps, ratcheting contrapuntal skids and prolonged string friction. For his part, Wastell, whose playing partners have ranged from Burn to Catalan feedback manipulator Mattin and Japanese laptopist Taku Unami, excels in a combination of acoustic and electronic stratagems.

Striking, stopping and sliding along his strings he exposes complementary partials that give his sound extra resonance. At one point cylindrical turning motions appear almost visual, indolently revealing themselves as a combination of scrapes from the massed strings plus submerged sibilant breaths and growls from trumpeter Davis. Someone who spent considerable time in Barcelona playing with lower case improvisers like accordionist Alfredo Costa Monteiro and fellow trumpeter Ruth Barberán, Davis often propels air from his trumpet’s lead pipe alone to approximate the strident hiss and shimmers of electronics.

His climatic duet with Wastell highlights the most distinctive – and loudest –

examples of this style. With the cellist manipulating jagged pitches among contact mics and from preparations, the trumpeter counters with squeezed, chromatic, almost-harmonica-like split tones that grow to capillary pulses. Eventually the duo exposes double counterpoint, encompassing electric-razor-like drones in both higher and lower pitches.

In trio – and with fewer silences and pauses on tap then in the duo session –

Davis’s rubato undercurrent and Wastell’s crackling textures turn to bubbling and sucking slurs from the trumpeter and pan-flute-like whistles from the cellist. Joined by Davies’ string glissandi, the interface augments into legato chording. Repeated blunt strikes and almost corporeal spiccato from the strings make up the trio’s final timbre variation. It’s nudged to the finale by irregular pitch vibrations from the strings and air gusts from the trumpeter.

As audacious as it is absorbing, this CD of modern music isn’t for the timorous, but for those who derive pleasure from the unexpected.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Rhodri Davies Solo 2. First Davis/Davies/Wastell Trio 3. Second Davis/Davies/Wastell Trio 4. Davis/Wastell Duo

Personnel: Matt Davis (trumpet, electronics and processing); Rhodri Davies (harp and preparations); Mark Wastell (cello, preparations and amplified textures)