Peter Blamey/Jim Denley

Split Records CD 14

By Ken Waxman

Wholly concerned with electro-acoustic interface, this notable CD marks Australian alto saxophonist Jim Denley’s exploration of the reduced parameters of elongated drones, triggered oscillations and vibrating wave forms as they affect his constrained reed pitches.

Sydney-based Denley has in the past probed his instrument’s limits in collaboration with like-minded players such as British pianist Chris Burn and German trumpeter Axel Dörner, as well as on a solo disc recorded outdoors in an Australian rain forest. This less-than-36-minute cameo situates his improvisations among the restrained textures produced by Peter Blamey’s four-channel mixing deck.

Although Blamey’s clouds of whooshes and flanges occasionally attain rolling thunder proportions, most of the action is pianissimo and moderato. With blurry, triggered hisses a constant leitmotif, Denley’s reed timbres burble alongside these wave forms as often as they jut out from the fluttering aural mists. Corrosive sandpaper rubs, emptying drain replications and cyclical motorized revolutions make up parts of the mixing deck’s electrical soundscape. For his part, the saxophonist asserts himself with abrasive kazoo-like cries, thwacking key percussion, colored air leaching through the body tube and ricocheting tongue slaps.

Responding to the thick envelopes of pitch modulations Denley scrapes the bell of his sax against the mic to grind out timbres that join with intermittent mouthpiece chirps and watery yawns. Elsewhere, with tongue pressure, he approximates microtonal abrasions created with slurred guitar fingering. When his gurgling reed arpeggios isolate protracted pauses among the drones, it’s apparent that his rapprochement with electro-acoustics is as complete as his contrapuntal involvement with others’ instrumental timbres.

In MusicWorks Issue #98