Maurizio Ravalico/Oren Marshall with Isambard Khroustaliov

In Thunder Rise
Not Applicable NOT014

Putting a synaptic spin on field recordings, a trio of London-based timbre explorers wandered the city’s byways for an undefined period, capturing the ambient soundscape that existed alongside the improvisations of two of them. Reframed and edited, the 24 tracks spread over two CDs offer textures often as premeditated as aleatory, creating an aural portrait of the British capital that is matter-of-factly ambient yet sonically descriptive at the same time.

Key participants in the performances, enigmatically titled with allusions to everything from Zen death poetry to the political theorizing of radical Guy Debord, are polymaths, tubaist Oren Marshall and conga drummer Maurizio Ravalico. Marshall, who has improvised with the likes of guitarist Derek Bailey, as well as gigging with the London Philharmonic, ethnic musicians and beat-boxers, is open to any challenge. So is Trieste-born Maurizio Ravalico, an in-demand conga player in London, part of the salsa and dance school accompaniment scene, as well as someone who gigs with folks as disparate as Jamiroquai and Paul McCartney.

Fellow percussionist Isambard Khroustaliov AKA Sam Britton, who improvises on conventional noise makers and found objects in a regularly constituted duo with Ravalico, is an equal member of the team as sound recordist. He positions his two microphones near the instruments, which move around incessantly during the recording, prompting spatial changes in form and depth as the intonation is documented.

Rearranged in the studio ignoring chronological as well as site-specific references, these instances of taking-it-to-the-streets makes the whoosh of traffic noises, the lapping and pulsating of waterways and passer-bys’ comments as much a part of the aural pictures as the textures created by the “real” instruments. For instance on the now related “Isospatial Species” and “Cock Lays an Egg”, the disconnected conga clip-clops and slurping altissimo squeaks from the tuba almost dissolve within the sounds of cars rolling along a motorway and quivering jackhammers on asphalt; and are interrupted by laughs and shouts from one pedestrians asking to hear a beat. When tuba flutter-tonguing and conga drum clatter lead a male voice to assert that he is “loving these guys”, the two play on as other snatches of conversation drift by.

On the other hand, Marshall’s tongue gymnastics and pressurized brass flatulence on “Urban Intervention #7/24” and “A Passing Moment” coupled with Ravalico’s African-styled constant patterning and rebounds, lead only to an indistinct “hello” and the sound of retreating footfalls. In response tuba lines become buffo, looser and more discordant as they curve around a melody of hard-handed drum smacks, as unaware adolescent voices echo from a nearby tunnel. Uniquely, Marshall somehow creates a flute-line texture on “Breathe with your Nose pt. 2 (just bathe in it)”, before producing instrument-specific grace notes accelerating into alp-horn-like echoes. Constant beeps from a car turning a corner mix with these shepherd horn-like textures as do arrhythmic pats from the drummer, until both instrumental tones are lost as traffic whizzes past.

Meanwhile tunes such as “Spectral Domain Processing” and “Elegy and Abandon” suggest unusual pantonality as Ravalico’s pounding and recoils makes it appear as if his rhythm is from a darbuka and the tubaist’s in-and-out pedal point growls resemble the output of a vacuum cleaner as much as a brass instrument. Pitch-sliding polyphony blended with what seems to be the replication of venetian blinds swiftly rappelling upwardly, enlivens “Bodies and Gens” plus “The Drowning of Ancestral Myth”, so does the crackling of police band radio commands. The clatter of passing cars also gets progressively louder as what initially seems to be cymbal smacks and drum skin ruffs plus braying brass reflux, eventually descends to conga rattles and pops plus wispy slurs from Marshall.

Crackles, cries, laugher and layering timbres also make aural appearances as the two follow their pilgrimage through the waterways and motorways of the city. In short, this pointillist fantasia reaches its most notable listening space when unexpected sonic naturalism interrupts or amplifies the improvisations.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Vol 1: 1. Entrance from the Lungs 2. Retina’s Tale 3. Neotenic Traits 4. Breathe with your Nose pt. 1 5. Breathe with your Nose pt. 2 (just bathe in it) 6. Timeless Cry 7. Urban Intervention #7/24 8. A Passing Moment 9. Why Insist? 10. Please Keep Your Dog on a Leash 11. Spectral Domain Processing 12. Elegy and Abandon Vol 2: 1. Entrance from the Ears 2. Inescapable Truths 3. Bodies and Gens 4. The Drowning of Ancestral Myth 5. Modern Bowels 6 I Lie Down in Storms (in Thunder Rise) 7. Skyscraper Ledge Dance 8. Oaksong 9. Scagrumptible 10. Isospatial Species 11. Cock Lays an Egg 12. Exit (Now Leaping Beyond, Everything Shatters)

Personnel: Oren Marshall (tuba) and Maurizio Ravalico (congas and percussion) with Isambard Khroustaliov (microphones)