John Butcher/Toshimaru Nakamura

Dusted Machinery
Monotype Records mono 041

Classic man verses machine improvisation, British saxophonist John Butcher matches his skills against the distinctive audio feedback produced from a so-called no-input mixing board given near-anthropomorphic cunning through the manipulations of Japan’s Toshimaru Nakamura. By connecting the board’s input to its output, Nakamura’s blurry oscillations evolve in ever-changing textural pitches from grinding croaks to ear-splitting yowls. It’s a tribute to the talents of Butcher that his perceptive reed thrusts and rejoinders evolve as appropriately as they do. Although by the final track he adopts a mechanized strategy by adding feedback loops to his reed-playing, on the other pieces Nakamura’s signal processing, oscillations and indistinct mechanical static confront only what Butcher can produce with tongue, lips, mouth, throat and fingers.

On Maku for instance, while motor-driven drones pulsate from thunderously loud to blurry fuzz tones, Butcher’s tenor saxophone sequences involve smears and expansive vibratos so that each Nakamura-originated texture faces a responsive sonic action. Moreover, while the machine’s voltage flanges may be so powerful that they’re nearly visible, the reedist’s multiphionic overblowing produces equivalent timbres that in split seconds leap from dog-whistle-like altissimo to basso growls and from pianissimo to fortissimo. Overall Butcher uses flutter-tongued intensity to chip away at the board-created solid sound block.

Using the soprano saxophone on Knead and Nobasu respectively, Butcher’s nasal split-tones, nephritic growls, key percussion and surprisingly lyrical interludes substantiate his human-ness. Conclusively he demonstrates that with original ideas and profound techniques man can lead machine to cooperate in creating a memorable sound program.

—Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 17 #7