Copper Fields
Organized Music from Thessaloniki #09/Absurd #82

Redefining and reconstructing the idea of how a string trio should sound, the members of Cranc have produced a single, nearly hour-long piece that may onomatopoeically reproduce the sound of the ensemble’s name, which is a homonym for the word defined as nonconformist.

Nonconformist the three who cranked out this superior example of non-idiomatic, electro-acoustic improvisation may be, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have appropriate musical credentials. Nikos Veliotis is an Athens-based cellist involved in audio and visual experiments, as well as playing with the likes of Norwegian bassist Michael Duch and British pianist John Tilbury. London-based Welsh violinist Angharad Davies is conversant with both notated and improvised experimental music and plays with such international sound explorers as saxophonist John Butcher from the United Kingdom and German trumpeter Axel Dörner. Davies’ brother Rhodri Davies has over the past decade-and-a-half created a unique role for the venerable harp in improvised music, working with everyone from Butcher to German synthesizer player Thomas Lehn.

Together since 1999, Cranc has through the use of extended technique and sonic processing created a polyphonic interface more concentrated than concerned with individual expression. Certain string properties are nonetheless put into use. Suite or sonata-like in a less-than-obvious manner, “Copper Fields” include a distinct, pulsating bass line present in the exposition which is recapitulated in the final section. This motif efficiently frames thematic development which is expanded, reshaped, and manipulated throughout.

With time-stretching and oscillations in effect throughout, the sound picture is languid, staccato and pointillist, although certain sequences are stentorian and others barely audible. Potentially extending the separations with the use of piezo pickups and an e-bow attached to the harp, these motor-driven buzzes also share space with string tropes that include sul ponticello shrilling and staccato flanges. Although the program mulches textures together so that they attain sandpapered flatness, bow angling and string scrubbing accentuate enough roughness to give the frequently murmuring process some pointed sequences.

Moving towards the finale, foreground wave forms concentrate into a multiphonic line which swells to encompass the extensions and partials that characterize both acoustic instruments’ qualities and the electronic interface. Fading to momentary silence, before the final variant, the regrouped theme takes on a quivering church organ-like pulse which snakes, shivers and buzzes to a reprise before concluding with untrammelled acoustic hums and pointedly mechanical whirrs.

With “Copper Fields” the Davis family members and honorary sibling have created a piece of music that is definitely not their father’s – or mother’s – string trio or sonata form. But it is high quality improvised sounds nonetheless.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Copper Fields

Personnel: Angharad Davies (violin); Nikos Veliotis (cello) and Rhodri Davies (electric harp)