Colin Webster & Mark Holub

New Atlantis Records NACD 018

Irene Kepl/Mark Holub



On busman’s holidays from his role as drummer with the highly popular, Jazz Rock-oriented Led Bib quintet, Mark Holub immerses himself in experimental sessions that are much more attention grabbing than his day job. Proofs positive are these CDs. Now a Vienna resident, on Taschendrache Holub immerses himself in a dozen duets with Austrian-violinist/electronics-manipulator Irene Kepl, who adds contemporary notated music tropes to his Jazz-Improv orientation. More conventional, in that saxophone-drum duos have long been part of Jazz, is Viscera, the fourth collaboration between the drummer and British alto, tenor and baritone saxophonist Colin Webster, also a member of the otherwise Dutch Dead Neanderthals trio. Substantiated by the CD title the Webster-Holub meeting probes the coarsest most lymphatic corners of unrefined improvisation.

Unrefined in this duos uncompromising fashion may be characterized as unafraid, but not unresponsive. Completely improvised without pre-planning – except that is for using Roscoe Mitchell’s “Chant” as the launching pad for the final track – the drum-sax narratives embellish the gut ejaculations pioneered by among others Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann and Albert Ayler and make them potentially rawer, with strategies developed in Metal and Noise music. From Webster’s first ejaculated whinny plus pile-driver thwacks from Holub on “Big Paws on A Puppy”, the slurps, clatters, clunks and smears multiply as the two stake out their in-the-moment territory. At points the visceral cacophony is such that the result seems to emanate from a single primeval beast with the bloody inevitability of any fantasy monster’s attack. Consider “Oaxacao” for instance, where penetrating snarls echo through the saxophone’s bow and gooseneck more than its bell, then with ruffs from the drummer grinding the beat to a sluggish pace, Webster’s solo sounds as if he’s scraping his stomach lining and intestines to illuminate near-animalistic rapture.

Never forget that this is Improvised Music (caps intended) not Metal or Noise Music though. Besides the sibilate razzing and quivering wallops, overblowing is sometimes replaced with more measured tones. “Then There Was” is the most languid outing for instance, with a swaying almost dance-like beat reminiscent of a Sonny Rollins’ calypso. Considering that the final “Chant” ends up sounding like a bugler’s call-to-arms followed by measured chanting, the concentrated thesis involving smashing cymbals mixed with bagpipe-like tremolo intensity, that doesn’t relent until the finale. Perfect to provide of a pure shot of adrenaline, Viscera could be improved though if the two players investigated a few more of the body’s humors.

That is done to some extent on Taschendrache since the signal processed drone and bell-like pings from Kepl’s electronic interface increase the number of sonic parameters on its dozen tracks. The oscillations are especially prominent on “Arachnid” and “Holz hackende Flecken”. On the second the narrowed electronic squeals add to taut bow motions, leading to dynamic tension between the two. Meanwhile Holub’s slaps and pops grow equivalently louder. “Arachnid” on the other hand has synthesizer-like hums and twitters reflecting and pumping up the fiddler’s microtones almost replicating a string ensemble. The percussionist’s unremitting beat emphasis prevents the string-set from blasting off into the stratosphere, though. Instead Holub’s multi-fold dynamics create appropriately ruggedly complements to the violinist’s spiccato strategies, especially when it appears that her knife-like sweeps are in danger of shredding the instrument’s catgut. Squeezing her strings to produce expanded partials, his raps and paradiddles are transformed into melody enhancers. This is especially noticeable on the concluding “Speed Date”, where splattering triple stopping from the violinist and jerky pops and patterns from the drummer meld into rapprochement.

Earlier on, during “A Day at the Beach” the excitement torqued due to her slashing spiccato lines and his solid parade-ground pumping reaches such a climax of Free Jazz ecstasy that memories of the connective skills of percussionist Jerome Cooper and violinist Leroy Jenkins in the Revolutionary Ensemble are evoked.

On the rewarding evidence here, one conclusion is that Holub should step out of his comfort zone more often. Maybe next time though, he should set up a trio session with his partners on both these discs.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Viscera: 1. Big Paws on A Puppy 2. Splinters 3. Oaxacao 4. Quara Capa 5. Conkan 6. Viscera of Chest and Abdomen 7. Then There Was 8. Chant

Personnel: Viscera: Colin Webster (alto, tenor and baritone saxophones) and Mark Holub (drums)

Track Listing: Taschendrache: 1. Brake Pebbles 2. Planetarium im Quadrat 3. On The Carousel 4. Taschendrache 5. Arachnid 6. Seifenblasen Bauen 7. A Day at the Beach 8. Finsteres Zeitfenster 9. Dancing Beetles 10, Holz hackende Flecken 11. Emergency Broadcast System 12. Speed Date

Personnel: Taschendrache: Irene Kepl (violin and electronics) and Mark Holub (drums)