August 2, 2010
AMP2 +Tim Hodgkinson
Bowindo Recordings BW13
Tim Hodgkinson/Milo Fine
Rossbin RS 028
Although the majority of musicians who have achieved some success in rock music – even progressive and avant-rock – are either prepared to keep repeating past successes or to settle into more popular genres, a minority have continued evolving. An even smaller number have continued sonic exploration to such an extent that they become involved in free-form improvisation. One such exemplar of this is London’s Tim Hodgkinson, still best-known as one of the founders of art rockers Henry Cow. Since that time, Hodgkinson, who plays clarinet, lap-steel guitar and electronics, has involved himself in a variety of other endeavors including composing contemporary music, exploring Siberian ethnomusicology with K-Space and improvising with the trio Konk Pack
Like many 21st century improvisers with an acoustic and an electronic persona, Hodgkinson shows off a different side on each of these CDs. Teshuvah showcases Hodgkinson as a clarinetist improvising in Minneapolis alongside hometown boy Milo Fine, who plays piano, junior drum set and Bb clarinet, sometimes simultaneously. Recorded a year later in Palermo, Hums features Hodgkinson as a clarinetist, guitarist and electronic-manipulator alongside AMP2 [Advanced Music and Mixed Media Pool Palermo], a five-man Sicilian electronic sound design collective.
“Hoop Scorn” is the most acoustic of the tracks on Hums, with the clarinetist using discursive trills, pinched squeaks and tongue stops. Meantime reflective twangs and snaps appear from the prepared guitar of Gandolfo Pagano as do rumbled flams and cymbal buzzing from percussionist Antonino Secchia. However these interludes evolve over a background of singular granulized clicks that build up to a crescendo of overriding, multiphonic drones.
In contrast, “Silt Omen” begins with spinning crackles and pulses interrupted by an unmistakable motor roar. Granulized pitches take shape, splinter and coagulate again, as part of the circuit-breaking and signal-processing strategies related to live processing from Dario Sanfilippo and Domenico Sciajno plus Marco Pianges’ laptop. Although these three have an academic bent – especially AMP2 founder Sciajno, who was an assistant to American composer Alvin Curran – all have extensive playing experience as well. That’s demonstrated on here when randomized pulsations brush up against feathery textures that could come from a fretless guitar. In other places wavering pitches resemble those produced by the clarinetist; triggered granulized syncopation take on piano-like properties; while distant guitar flanges and drum kit scrape seem to appear from within a bouquet of signal-processed drones and buzzing static.
Legit instrument are all that’s featured on Teshuvah’s two extended and one short track. With Hodgkinson limiting himself to resonating shrills, flutter-tonguing and judiciously spaced chromatic lines, Fine alternates among high-frequency glissandi and cerebral hunt-and-pecking on the piano keys plus patterning drum ruffs and cymbal slaps; as well as squeaking and tongue-slapping clarinet lines of his own. During the improvisations Fine’s and Hodgkinson’s strident reed intertwining often involves hocketing, tongue slaps and power blowing; the gentling puffs and weaving lyricism are from the British reedist alone. Then again the American sometimes maintains a reed line at the same time as he rattles drum tops, or bird-peeps flattment as he chords on the piano.
Antipodal or united strategies are most prominent on “The Remembering” as the two work their way through a series of duets. In double counterpoint, one clarinetist peeps higher and higher notes while the other squawks out narrower and more dissonant trimbres until Fine plays connective arpeggios on the piano to move them into a diffent variant. This interlude is characterized by narrower and more atonal squeaks from Hodgkinson that encompass forced air and what sounds like feral animal scratching. As unconnected false fingering and split tones predominate Fine exposes internal keyboard mechanics while he continues to fan the external keys. As the interface moves from andante to staccato and agitato, Fine’s methodical chording seems to embolden the clarinetist to clench one fortissimo note over the piano’s pumping portamento until an element of lyricism is introduced. When keyboard pumps are seconded by rolls and pops from the drum kit, the finale includes chalumeau reed lines and smears.
Avoiding the pitfalls of spreading himself too thin musically, Fine’s contributions mate with Hodgkinson’s clarinet to solidify what could otherwise have been formless improvising. Similarly the oscillated and pulsed sound pictures created by the Sicilians in AMP2 are given a pragmatic focus by the Englishman’s electronics and acoustic add-ons.
Both discs show off Hodgkinson’s versatility and talents in widely different but similarly improvised surroundings.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Teshuvah: 1. The Renunciant 2. The Remembering 3. The Work To Return
Personnel: Teshuvah: Tim Hodgkinson (Bb clarinet) and Milo Fine (piano, junior drum set, Bb clarinet and voice)
Track Listing: Hums: 1. Intelligent Sofa 2. Mr. Mamontov 3. Rolling 4. Hoop Scorn 5. Silt Omen 6. The Fish and Dagger 7. Claw Paste
Personnel: Hums: Tim Hodgkinson (lap-steel guitar, electronics and clarinets) plus AMP2: Gandolfo Pagano (prepared guitar); Antonino Secchia (percussion); Dario Sanfilippo and Domenico Sciajno (laptop/live electronics) and Marco Pianges (laptop)