The Geordie Approach

Shields
DISCUS 84 CD

The Necks

Three

Northern Spy NS 126

Negotiating the narrow parameters that join minimalism to mesmerizing are two unconventional trios whose sessions’ allure lies in devising unexpected textures without losing touch with progressive narratives.

Much younger of the groups is The Geordie Approach, which despite its name includes only one player from the UK’s northeast and two Norwegians. Now Leeds-based, the Geordie, guitarist Chris Sharkey, plays in a duo with Mark Sanders and any number of bands. Norwegian drummer Ståle Birkeland plays in groups like the Kitchen Orchestra, while alto saxophonist Petter Frost Fadnes is director of Jazz Studies at the University of Stavanger. There’s no hint of the academic in the trio’s two extended tracks. However the astute use of electronics by the saxophonist and guitarist interpolates unanticipated pulses into the program. Over the course of “North” for instance, the interaction leisurely stretches from drumstick clacks, string shakes and repetitive reed puffs to metrical drum splatters and echoing saxophone wheezes. Mixed with wave form undulations, backing from a pseudo-vocal chorus is suggested as affiliated timbres expand to a crescendo of tremolo patterning then fade. Companion track “South” is louder and tougher, with the percussion rhythms more disjointed though thumping, while organ-like tremolos and spiraling crackles take over the forefront along with backwards running flanges. Although the dissected reed tones and guitar licks are initially distant, by mid-point a groove is established. Melding ratcheting string twangs, simple drum clip-clops that could emanate from a small practice kit, and nasal reed vibrations, the recurring motifs are divided into further unidentifiable noise variables which wiggle to a climax. As the signal processing extraterrestrial pulses and acoustic impulses stake out different parameters clipped drum beats bring them to a defining conclusion.

If this trio has only been experimenting with Geordie Approach for the past few years, then Australia’s The Necks have been refining their approach for more than 30 years. With percussionist Tony Buck and keyboardist Chris Abrahams now Berlin residents, while bassist Lloyd Swanton remains in Oz, the trio is geographically situated in a similar fashion to the other band. Yet the musical synergy the three have built up over the years allows them to both present a verifiable Necks sound and vary it through experimentation. Instead of the expected one-hour aggregate which characterize most previous Necks’ discs, Three is divided into tracks of almost equal duration expressing distinct emotions.

Among the unprecedented sounds heard are those at the beginning of “Lovelock” where what could be a bullroarer whump is contrasted with chamber style piano tinkles, as cymbal echoes providing the continuum. As the treble piano motion is repeated at a slower pace a moody theme is revealed. In contrast Abrahams’ melodic expression at first makes more of a statement than the clunks, thumps and superfast raps from the drummer on “Bloom’, with the powerful double bass line holding the disparate motifs together. Scene-shifting takes place mid-way through, as the pianist’s modulating swirls move the exposition into a near soulful groove shadowed by backbeat percussion and what may be a sampled guitar riff. The concluding “Further” resets the game once again with Abrahams unleashing his inner-Floyd Crammer, displaying swinging patterns that seem one-half honky tonk and one-half countrypolitan. At the same time an overdubbed organ slur judders underneath his solo, giving the pianist a cushion on which to create keyboard jiggling variations. The result is an impossible-to-ignore narrative that by adding some R&B-like riffs becomes as inimitable as it is original.

Ingenuity mixed with originality makes both these sessions ones that can be followed profitably from beginning to end, even if some of the timbres are evidently unidentifiable.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Shields: 1. North 2. South

Personnel: Shields: Petter Frost Fadnes (alto saxophone and electronics); Chris Sharkey (guitar and electronics) and Ståle Birkeland (drums)

Track Listing: Three 1. Bloom 2. Lovelock 3. Further.

Personnel: Three: Chris Abrahams (piano); Lloyd Swanton (bass); Tony Buck (drums and percussion)