October 30, 2011
Evan Parker & Matthew Wright
Adam Bohman & Adrian Northover
Custodians of the Realm
No Label No #
Methods of blending saxophone timbres within an electro-acoustic setting are highlighted in these virtuoso performances, demonstrating converse if equally valid approaches. The product of four studio visits and episodes of digital signal processing, Trance Map situates Evan Parker’s soprano saxophone playing plus synthesized samples within the sound designs of turntablist and electronics manipulator Matthew Wright. Conversely, while including overdubbed saxophone lines, Custodians of the Realm was captured in real time. It mates Adrian Northover’s soprano saxophone with resonations and intonations from the toys, objects and home-made strings of Adam Bohman.
Parker, Northover and Bohman are all members of the London Improvisers Orchestra, while Wright splits his time collaborating with improvisers like Parker and cellist Francis-Marie Uitti; composing New music digital media scores; plus teaching creative music technology at British universities. Bohman specializes in mixing musique concrète, sound poetry and free improvisation, often in duo with his brother Jonathan and in other ensembles; while Northover is part of busy working groups such as The Remote Viewers and the Happy End Big Band. Parker, of course, is known as one of the progenitors of European Free Music, who since the 1960s has played with nearly everyone on the scene from guitarist Derek Bailey to pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach as well as leading his own units, including the Electro Acoustic Ensemble.
Trance Map’s electro-acoustic ensemble consists of only two performers. But it positively demonstrates how to insert the listener into a wholly original sonic environment. A self-contained piece of almost 70 minutes, the interface, encompasses repetitive loops of sampled aviary animal and insect trills, snuffles and children’s squeals, plus instrumentally or electronically linked vibrations that are raw and brittle at points, or quiver smoothly elsewhere. Among the unstable wave forms and a steady percussive undertow is the unmistakable arc of Parker’s reed lines, sometimes circular breathed and sometime layered with overdubbed intersecting tones. As the inchoate textures harmonize at points or oppose each other contrapuntally elsewhere, the the overall effect is that of a continuously spinning Catherine’s wheel. Similarly Wright’s configurations add to the general polyphony, with granular stretches making the backing denser with choir-like synchronization plus anchoring, blurry flanges that splinter into staccato squeals that arrive from every part of the arrangement.
Trance Map reaches a climax during its third and longest section as the near-opaque sound thickens to become multiphonic with an admixture of 3D-like Klangfarbenmelodie, staccato and watery fowl cries and glass armonica-like circular pumps. Soon the split tones which Parker had pushed through time-stretched sequences give way to what could be drum sticks hitting a practice pad, but is eventually revealed as key percussion from the saxophonist. Following this, strident machine-processed spins subsume the reedist’s doits and peeps, as electronic wave forms ooze into every remaining aural space. Eventually the contributions from Wright’s processing and turntable plus Parker’s improvising flatten and harden into a series of atom-sized pulses, with the acoustic, electric and previously created material neatrly undifferentiated.
More in-the-moment, and in slightly more than half the length of the Parker-Wright collaboration, Bohman and Northover engage in 15 improvisations, ranging from 42 seconds to almost seven minutes. A few highlight the reedist’s lyrical soprano runs, trilling split tones or multiphonic reed bites. Others match washboard-like rubs and speedy smacks from Bohman with linear trills. But the most memorable sequences are those which use Bohman’s objects as improvising sound sources, but tweak them as craftily as any timbre sourced from a so-called real instrument.
This is especially obvious on tracks such as “Inspector Of Gammon And Nectarines”, “Dead Man’s Clutch” and “Cadmium Cardinal”. The last celebrates this extremely toxic metal by letting the slow-moving staccato friction from the objects narrow to replicate barely there peeps created by reed bites. The first mixes lathe-turning-styled clicks along with blurry oscillations and what appear to be chord patterns literally strained from Northover’s reed. With all the rubbing abrasions from both sides, distinguishing one player from the other is impossible – and unnecessary. Meanwhile “Dead Man’s Clutch” – an unappealing image itself – contrasts multiphonic tone examination from the saxophonist ending in circular-breathed vibrato runs, with contrapuntal whooshes and air-blown whispers from Bohman’s table of elements.
Finally, unlike many other mprov sessions, there’s no question as to when Northover and Bohman have finished on “Mountains Of Hardened Black Ink”, the last track. Following discordant interface between sul ponticello fiddle pulls and scratches as well as dog-like yelps and altissimo staccato peeps from the saxophone, the resulting discordance is resolved when one player simply states “OK, that’s it”.
Those who appreciate sessions which challenge improvised saxophone timbres with contributions from unidentified and unusual sound makers will be disappointed that the invention demonstrated on Custodians of the Realm concludes. They can experience it again by repeatedly playing the CD; a strategy recommended for Trance Map as well.
Track Listing: Custodians: 1. Garnished Cement And Frogspawn 2. Fronds 3. Bream Bypass 4. Disrupted Rhubarb 5. The Varnished Polecat 6. Inspector Of Gammon And Nectarines 7. Splinter 8. A Hound’s Spleen 9. Dead Man’s Clutch 10. Crushed Bunson Burner Barrage 11. Cadmium Cardinal 12. Sticky Repast 13. River Nun 14. In Situ 15. Mountains Of Hardened Black Ink
Personnel: Custodians: Adrian Northover (soprano saxophone and toys) and Adam Bohman (prepared strings, objects and toys)
Track Listing: Trance: 1. Intro 2. [25.58] 3. [35.41] 4. Outro
Personnel: Trance: Evan Parker (soprano saxophone and sample collection) and Matthew Wright (live sampling, turntables and sound design)