Evan Parker Electrocacoustic Ensemble

psi 12.03

Continuing his rapprochement with electronic currents, British saxophonist Evan Parker has organized a 13-piece ensemble almost equally divided between acoustic and processing instruments. This disc is notable historically, showing how the philosophies of pure electronics and pure acoustics can intersect. Nonetheless the results aren’t too surprising, considering that the majority of players on both sides of the equation are comfortable in both milieus.

Pieced together from performances presented on different nights in concert in Hasselt, Belgium, the CD climaxes with a more-than-half-hour sequence featuring the entire group. However the trio of preceding selections matches players from both sides of the electro-acoustic divide – without Parker – for shorter instant compositions. “Hasselt 1” and “Hasselt 2” are most illustrative, as they aptly demonstrate how a commanding musical personality, pianist Augustí Fernández in the first case and bassist Barry Guy in the second, can dominate the proceedings despite the presence of potentially louder plugged-in instruments. For instance, the Catalan pianist’s high-frequency keyboard sweeps and tremolo string resonations from inside and outside his instrument on the first piece create a swiftly paced narrative that makes Walter Prati’s computer processing a junior improvising partner. In the same way, the subterranean textures from contrabass clarinetist Peter van Bergen and Guy’s double bass on “Hasselt 2” are more ruggedly commanding and percussively directed than the live electronics produced by the FURT duo of Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer.

Mostly acoustic, with drummer Paul Lytton’s live electronics the only deviation from the natural sounds of Fernandez plus Ishikawa Ko’s sho, Peter Evans’s trumpets and Ned Rothenberg’s bass clarinet, “Hasselt 3” can be interpreted as a prologue to the final piece. Encompassing vibrating split tones and tremolo tongue patterning from the three horn players plus unattributed Jew’s harp-like twanging and harmonica blowing, all of the propelled timbres appear to be strained through blurry signal processes as Lytton’s compliment beat is mostly confined to wooden hoof-like resonation. Eventually the quartet manage to interlock the discordant pitches to a jittery narrative overlaid by brass-sourced tongue fluttering as drum pops and circular breathing from Rothenberg meld.

Culmination of a program intermingling concepts from a baker’s dozen of unfettered improvisers, “Hasselt 4” gains its structure by dividing the ensemble into sections. Although fixed in advance, the actual performance-arrangement groups like-sounding instruments. As expected, Parker’s nearly patented circular breathing takes up the introduction before turning to buzzing spits, joined by the other horns’ growls and slurs as the six electro processors uses granular synthesis to add to and subvert the existing timbres. By the middle section, despite infrequent plunger emphasis from Evans, some percussion rumbles and rustles, the action is mostly divided among the oscillating loops and staccato signal processed clicks that lead to gong echoes and flanged distortions plus reed sequences that include a contrabass clarinet ostinato, tongue slaps and split tones from all. Before the nearly 35-minute sequence is completed by brass blats, whines and bites mated with processed modulation and piano cadences, the performance reaches a crescendo of continuous mercurial textures. Tremolo bellowing, reed yelps, percussive piano cascades and blunt ruffs plus stick clatters from the drummer intersect with oozing, processed flanges. Skyscraper-high grace notes from the piccolo trumpet surmount the siren-like contrapuntal electric modulations for an additional jolt, presaging the more moderated finale.

A gratifying listen, although it doesn’t break much new ground, Hasselt confirms that electro-acoustic mastery has become second nature to many sophisticated improvisers

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Hasselt 1 2. Hasselt 2 3. Hasselt 3 4. Hasselt 4

Personnel: Peter Evans (trumpet and piccolo trumpet); Ishikawa Ko (sho); Ned Rothenberg (clarinet and bass clarinet); Peter van Bergen (Ab and contrabass clarinets); Evan Parker (soprano saxophone); Augustí Fernández (piano and prepared piano); Barry Guy (bass); Paul Lytton (percussion and live electronics); FURT [Richard Barrett, Paul Obermayer (live electronics)]; Joel Ryan (sample and signal processing); Walter Prati (live and computer processing); Lawrence Casserley (signal processing instrument, percussion and voice); Marco Vecchi, sound processing and sound projection)