Empty Editions EE004

Program music with its inspirations concealed, uncommon Palina’tufa must be judged on its sound rather than any hidden agenda. Created by Britons alto saxophonist Seymour Wright and percussionist Paul Abbott (XT) during a two-week residency in Hong Kong, the CD’s four tracks purportedly reflect landscapes imagined in this uniquely democratic part of China. Instead of scenic reflections however, the spatial and temporal reflections created by the duo are broadened from the saxophonist’s extended techniques and feedback plus the percussionist’s adaptation of deconstructed rhythms and judicious use of electronic loops. The improvised program is singular, but also expands in terms of unparalleled technical dexterity.

As each of the selections, titled with letters, times out at around 15 minutes, contrasts are mainly in the amount of grinding intensity displayed. Although passages of near silence and/or quiet are infrequent, they confirm that if generic to the performance XT can move its program close to the lyrical. Most of the time though sequences are built up from buzzing multiphonics, slurred vibrations and twittering near aviary shrills from Wright, as well as variable and mercurial pulses from Abbot, involving cymbal reverberation and clatters and crunches from the rest of his kit.

Propelling textures with sounds that include foreshortened reed bites and tongue slaps as often as steadily widening overblowing, the saxophonist sets up contrapuntal broken chord narratives as the drummer uses blunt drags and crashes as well as a distinctive gunshot-like beat to maintain his position. On a track like “(2)” Wright narrows his output to thin peeps then turns around with a multiplicity of split tones that suggest two horns playing in unison. Atonality crests on “(3)” as irregular clip-clop slaps and clattering bass textures produce a blurry interface alongside kazoo-like split tones vibrated in the altissimo range. Ending with curving reed snarls that become narrower and narrower, the date’s only hint of pseudo-Asian textures may be implied here. Staccato bird-like croaks shift the mostly sonically grisaille-like final sequence to nearly inaudible and interactive percussion taps and looping rumbles from Abbott. When wood flute-like reed tones climax as humming drones, the subsequent measured drum patterns signal the end.

Abstract essays in pure improv, Palina’tufa may not be for everyone. But accepting its limited parameters and how they’re realized can be rewarding.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. (A) 2. (B) 3. (C) 4. (D)

Personnel: Seymour Wright (alto saxophone) and Paul Abbott (percussion)