The Sealed Knot - Live at the Red Hedgehog

(ccs 13)

Burkhard Beins : percussion

Rhodri Davies : harp

Mark Wastell : double bass

 

Recorded at the  Red Hedgehog, Highgate, London 2006

 

"This is a live date from October, 2006 at a joint called The Red Hedgehog, two tracks. Wastell is on double bass here, Davies and Beins on their regular axes. I'm not at all sure any blow by blow description would be of much value but suffice it to say that much of the material encountered in this concert is more viscerally propulsive than you might expect, Wastell in particular sawing away at his bass with calculated abandon. This is of course not to say that there's anything of a pyrotechnical nature involved; when the first piece subsides from the initial fury, the delicate placement of bongs, whirrs and muffled thuds is exquisite enough to cause one to hold one's breath. Later in the same cut, closing out the improvisation, the brutal grinding of some kind of cords being bowed by Beins (? guessing) contrasting with Wastell's deep, deep arco and Davies' angelically high hum is just too good.The slow, loose cadence that opens the second piece evokes a slightly ritualistic nature, not so dissimilar to that heard on Wastell's recent Amoungst English Men. That rhythmic kernel gets batted around for a good while, assuming a variety of guises until, once again, a surprisingly forceful little storm develops, looming in off the sea before it crashes against the cliff sides. Once again, Davies' keening tones are absolutely shiver-inducing, beautifully placed among the rougher surroundings. A crude, bell-like beat emerges, a tocsin sounding before a return to the initial processional. A wondrous performance." (Bagatellen)

 

Open run quality CDR edition in recycled card sleeve with 350g matt laminate label.

 

 

 

Joachim Nordwall - Concert

(ccs 15)

Recorded by John Olson at bla, Oslo, Norway on 22nd March 2008

 

"A recent partner of Mark Wastell in Ocean Of Silver And Blood, Nordwall is here captured – perhaps on cassette, given the self-confessed terrible quality of the recording – during a 17-minute set in Oslo, in 2008. It’s too bad that we can’t really get a hold on the actual gradations generated by this “skull transmission” (I had thought about an Alvin Lucier-like performance with wires linked to the artist’s head, then read that JN is a member of Skull Defects) because what transpires is positively stimulating. These sounds might have ranked in the field of modern minimalism, due to the constant permanence around the same sort of resonance (a slightly mutating reverberant halo where imaginary voices and gritty bowed percussion proceed on parallel levels). They go on without excessive change, don’t shock for the enormity of their beauty yet possess staying power, to the point that four repeats were needed for this reviewer to realize that there were new hues to note and consider with every spin. A properly equalized studio release of this kind of substance would be undoubtedly attractive. So much for “intentionally lo-fi” and Wolf Eyes’ John Olson’s influence on the work, an archetypal case of WTF." (Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes)

Zachary James Watkins – Suite For String Quartet

(ccs 14) 

Johnny Chang : violin 

Gerhard Uebele : violin 
Miriam Gotting : viola 
Martin Smith : cello 
Zachary James Watkins : electronics

 

Recorded Berlin 2009

 

Suite for String Quartet has been in a continuous state of 'revision' since Christmas 2004. For this current version I have developed a new tuning for all 16 strings. Each string of the quartet is retuned to an odd number partial of 60Hz. Suite For String Quartet is written specifically for resonant spaces, interactive electronics, audience participation and string quartet. Please feel free to explore the space, move quickly, move slowly, make subtle movements, dance! Listen to the unique characteristics of the space and the sounds being performed by the loud speakers, strings players and each other! - Zachary James Watkins

 

"Watkin's 2006 composition Suite For String Quartet" has been making the rounds of international festivals and performance spaces; and the Californian composer has been wisely tweaking the piece with each presentation, slowing the pace of certain elements and constricting the more agitated motifs. Harmonics from specific tunings for his quartet plus his own electronics are central to the work, building upon tutelage from Alvin Curran and Pauline Oliveros. Buzzing overtones waver and pulse from Watkins' quartet and accompanying electronic drone, with everything tuned to mathematically precise variations upon the 60hz hum. In this 2009 performance from Berlin, he imparts a steady surge of sustained notes for the first 20 minutes, before directing his quartet to diverge into dive-bomb motifs that almost sound like shepherds tones played on strings." (The Wire)

 

Matt Davis & Mark Wastell – Derby 11.05.2002 / Liverpool 10.05.2002

(ccs 16)

 

Matt Davis : electronics, effects
Mark Wastell : amplified textures

 

Recorded live in concert on May 10th, 2002 in Derby and May 11th, 2002 in Liverpool by Chris Trent.

 

"A blast from the past! Or, rather, a whisper from those long ago days when reductionism (that hated term) held reign and only the merest sounds were often discerned during the course of a concert. A welcome return, in this case.

Previously available in exceedingly minimal quantity (like 50), Confront has generously allowed these two sets to once again see the light of day. Davis was often heard on trumpet and Wastell on cello or percussion, but here it seems (no instrumentation is listed) that both are employing electronics and perhaps contact mics. The first of the two pieces here, which were recorded on consecutive days in 2002, adheres most closely to the ultra-quiet aesthetic and succeeds in classic fashion, by the careful deployment of those minimal sounds as well as the textural contrast they still evince even at low volume levels. It's all sine tones, rattles, low hums, all pppp and simply transfixing. The second selection is certainly more active, though by no means frenetic. The sound density is greater and the range of timbres and sonorities wider, low, rough contact mic scratchings set against swirling twitters, for example, creating a palpable sonic space between them. A fine little set, happy to have it back." (Brian Olewnick, Squid's Ear)

The Sealed Knot - Live at Cafe Oto

(ccs 17)

Burkhard Beins : percussion, electronics
Rhodri Davies : harp, electronics
Mark Wastell : tam-tam, electronics

 

Recorded live at the 'Another Timbre' Festival, Cafe Oto, London on January 21st, 2009.

 

"The Sealed Knot are one of the great free improvisation groups, comparable to the classic 1980s SME line-up of John Stevens, Nigel Coombes and Roger Smith for edge-of-your-seat attentiveness and sheer inter-group telepathy. Rhodri Davies, Mark Wastell and Burkhard Beins have been a unit since 2000, a melding of London and Berlin. Recent sightings have been rare, but they played in Berlin this May, and now Wastell's revived Confront label is releasing this live album from January 2009.

 

The purpose of the 2009 show was to celebrate Another Timbre's release of And We Disappear, recorded live in Switzerland at a 2007 festival titled Ear We Are. That album was about the yawning gulf between Davies's high, piercing ebow work and Wastell's glacial double bass. Whereas the new record has Wastell switching to tam tam, and all three musicians employing electronics - but lo-fi mechanical electronics, rather than digital processing. So there's a pleasing, subdued industrial fury lurking beneath the music. Filigrees of rapid clicking make way for subterranean pulsing, and Beins adds the super-pure tones of bowed cymbals, to blur the electric/acoustic distinction further. Around 18 minutes the group contemplate silence, before launching into a further 13 minutes of patient exploration and metallic mystery.

 

Wastell has grumbled that critics are "always 12 months behind the flow" when it comes to describing what musicians are up to, and here he is, helping us along by releasing a four year old recording. Never mind that the trend-buzz around Lower Case Improv, New London Silence & co has worn off; with music of this quality we're dealing with simple excellence, and any opportunity to see this group at work should be seized." (Clive Bell, The Wire)

 

 

"It's always a pleasure to hear the work of this fine trio, 2/3 of IST (Fell replaced by Burkhard Beins) but with Wastell having long since switched over to tam tam and all three employing electronics and the resultant sound is entirely apart. We're now into long sounds (though I'm somehow hesitant to refer to it as drones), individual strings sustaining for many seconds but extremely varied in pitch and timbre and, for lack of a better term, particulate nature, while always remaining soft. The use of finely chosen long tones combined throughout with an array of quiet, rapid, gently percussive sounds makes this set, again perfectly circumscribed at about 1/2 hour, work so well. Despite the delicacy, the effect on the whole becomes very rich and reverberant, reminding me a bit of Rowe's solo music circa 2004 but with distance between the elements; there's a strong feeling of three-ness here, fantastic levels of detail. after a (luscious) lull mid-piece, there's a sudden and surprising three-note electronic-fuzz figure as the churning music edges darker by a few degrees before fading into some hollow percolation and wheeze.

An excellent recording, one of my favorites of the year. Welcome back, Confront." (Brian Olewnick, Just Outside)

Oceans of Silver & Blood

(ccs 19)

Joachim Nordwall : roland s100 modular synth
Mark Wastell : 32" paiste tam tam

Recorded by Jonathan McHugh at Goldsmiths College, London 10 December 2007

The debut self titled album from Oceans of Silver and Blood was originally issued in an edition of 100 cds on Joachim's Ideal label and launched in conjunction with their concert at Lampo, Chicago 07 june 2008. More or less selling out at the concert, it was subsequently released on white vinyl album by Norsordo from Sweden. Norsordo folded operations soon after release and although still available via some sellers on Discogs, the album was never promoted properly and no reviews were ever published. This Confront issue will hopefully help rectify that situation and bring the recording to a wider audience.

 

"A duo formed by Mark Wastell and Joachim Nordwall, Oceans Of Silver And Blood recorded this three-quarter hour improvisation live at Goldsmiths College, London, with Nordwall manning a Roland S1000 Modular Synthesizer and Wastell taking his place behind his 32" Tam Tam. As ever, Wastell manages to coax tones that go beyond the usual realm of percussive instrumentation, merging his rich, metallic sonorities with the alimentary snarl of Nordwall's synths. The end result is a highly musical, and brilliantly realised drone exercise, managing to sound vastly more physical and potent than so much contemporary work in this field. Highly recommended." (BOOMKAT)

The Sealed Knot - All Angels

(ccs 21)

Burkhard Beins : percussion
Rhodri Davies : harp
Mark Wastell : violoncello

Recorded live in concert by Tim Fletcher at St. Michael & All Angels Church, West London on 14 April 2000

Originally released in a tiny edition of 50 copies in 2000, this recording officially marks the beginning of The Sealed Knot as a regular group. Interestingly, the liner notes that accompanied that release make mention, for the first time in print, of the terms 'the new silence' and 'Berlin reductionism' ......... although listening now, all these years later, the music sounds far from silent and/or little reduced.

"The music on this cd was recorded live at All Angels, West London and documents the exciting ongoing collaboration between young musicians working in London and Berlin. Although all three performers have travelled between the two capital cities since the early 1990's playing in various combinations, this is their first concerts as a trio. Beins co-runs the 2.13 Berlin improvisation club, with guitarist Michael Renkel, in conjunction with it's sister organisations in London and Athens. All three clubs are named after a stopped clock at the original London venue. Critics have dubbed Wastell and Davies' music 'the new silence' and Beins' German counterpart 'new Berlin reductionism'. Categories aside, this is improvised music concerned with space, texture and time, emphasised by the gently ticking clock at the back of All Angels as sounds fade into silence." (Original liner notes)

Mark Wastell - Caressed on the Brow by Unseen Hands

(ccs 23)

 

Tetuzi Akiyama : amplified acoustic guitar
Rhodri Davies : harp
Benedict Drew : laptop
Michael Duch : double bass
Graham Halliwell : amplified and feedback saxophone
Paul Hood : gp3 record player, mixer, objects
Annette Krebs : electroacoustic guitar
Mattin : laptop
Andrea Neumann : inside-piano, mixing desk
Nishide Takehiro : guitar, electronics
Mark Wastell : violoncello


Recorded at LMC Studios, Brixton, London on 17 June 2003 by Tom Wallace.

 

Originally issued on L'innomable in an edition of 300 in 2007 and subsequently sold out very quickly. This long overdue re-issue celebrates the unique encounter of eleven like-minded musicians (from Japan, England, Wales, Germany, Basque Country & Norway), brought together for one day only; encompassing a daytime recording session followed by an evening concert.

 

"In spite of the numbers, the music never gets crowded, and an ensemble character successfully emerges right at the top of this single, thirty minute piece. Instead of the usual tight focus and close-up sound, this is a more diffuse recording in a larger room. So the scale opens up like a stormy vista of dark clouds – the ominous atmospherics alternate with hovering, shifting drones, from stratospheric sines and feedback to bone-rattling bass tones. It’s not all restrained reductionism, and moments of drama occur throughout, giving the piece a satisfying arc. Individual contributions are unsurprisingly hard to identify, and the aim is clearly to construct an ensemble sound.


Wastell’s mini-orchestra also performed live in the evening of that same June day. I saw them in Hackney in a condemned building, where I recall feeling that if the gaping floorboards didn’t get you, the thick dust would. In spite of the odd, not to say life-threatening, performing environment, the concentration and focus of the playing was memorable. By the end of the evening some feverish brows certainly needed caressing."

(Clive Bell, The Wire)

Ist - Berlin

(ccs 18)

Rhodri Davies : harp
Simon H. Fell : double bass
Mark Wastell : violoncello

 

Recorded at Total Music Meeting, Podewil, Berlin in 2001.

 

"One day, I hope, the story will be written. The story of the group IST and its relationship to the birth of the music that subsequently became variously known as 'New London Silence' or 'Lower Case Improv' (and yes, I use those upper case letters intentionally).

 

Perhaps the learned critics (who seem very rarely to actually ask the musicians) will tell us just what our place is in this history. Certainly we were not the first - Rhodri and Mark were much influenced by Radu Malfatti and Phil Durrant (among others) at this time (or so it seemed to me), but we were among the first. From my own personal point of view, playing this new kind of provocatively distilled music seemed like a coherently radical response to the expansive intensity of groups such as Hession/Wilkinson/Fell and Descension. I have always had a certain sinful pride in the breadth of my discography at this time, and looking back I'm still impressed by the fact that at one period I was simultaneously playing with Descension and IST.

 

These two groups have more in common than their radical diversity, however. Perhaps more than any other groups in which I've participated, each performance by these ensembles seemed to represent a kind of manifesto - a real challenging of the ways a certain number of our audience might have of thinking about music, and what it should be. But whilst Descension's discography amounts to one appallingly-recorded and long out-of-print CD, we are fortunate that IST was much better documented on numerous occasions.

 

It's only fair to point out that IST didn't begin with the purity it later developed. The very early recordings released on the 'Anagrams To Avoid' LP show a group still wedded to the music of free, unrestrained activity. But the chemical processes resulting from the combining of Rhodri and Mark didn't take long to come to fruition (my act of introducing Rhodri to Mark and vice versa might one day merit me a footnote in someone's thesis).

 

One such 'manifesto' performance was our appearance at Berlin's Total Music Meeting in 2001. Perhaps it is difficult for some people now to understand the significance of a group such as ours playing at the Total Music Meeting at that time. I don't intend to write this history now either, but from a free/improvised music point of view Berlin in 2001 was far from the place it is now - a chapter in the history of free music was drawing to a close, but for the moment the old ways of doing things still reigned supreme.

 

We played the music you will hear on this recording - and not for the first time caused quite a stir. In particular, a younger generation of Berlin musicians seemed to feel the musical permafrost cracking. The response of the audience at the end of our set - those who had stayed - gives some flavour of the impact of this performance.

 

Of course, this is all somewhat of a storm in a teacup. We didn't change the world, perhaps we didn't even change the Berlin musical world. But we did play a short but exceptional set; the music is here to hear, the rest you can decide for yourself." Simon H. Fell (May 2013)

 

 

The Sealed Knot - Surface/Plane

(ccs 20)

Burkhard Beins : percussion
Rhodri Davies : harp
Mark Wastell : violoncello

Surface recorded live in concert at St. Michael & All Angels Church, West London on 28 September 2001. Plane recorded live in concert at St.Pauls Hall, Huddersfield, on 27 September 2001.


Re-issue of Meniscus MNSCS 012, originally released in 2003.

Listed as one of THE WIRE'S Top 10 Improvised Music Records 2003.

Although the group was formed in 2000, its members have been playing together in different groupings and settings throughout Europe since 1997. There is a special connection between the London and Berlin scenes, which The Sealed Knot exemplifies. Although the musical form is composed in the moment, the structures are open. Nothing is forced – all three lock into a specific area of exploration in a subtle way. The group uses no pre-prepared material and they don’t eschew repetition and definite pitches.

"...Overall, they give the impression of a gradual ebb and flow of layered soundfields over a bedrock of silence. Confronted with the trio's intricately plaited tones, sometimes it's hard to tell the provenance of a particular sound - like many musicians exploring extended techniques, they're at war with their instruments...Gradual shifts and the kind of communication that develops within longstanding musical relationships are central to the group aesthetic. The slow, deliberate movement of The Sealed Knot's music often sounds semi-composed, a testament to the close bond that they have developed over the years..." (Will Montgomery, "Silence is a rhythm too: The Sealed Knot”, The Wire, June 2002)

Derek Bailey & Simon H. Fell - The Complete 15th August 2001

(ccs 22)

Derek Bailey : acoustic guitar 
Simon H. Fell : double bass 

 

This is the full recording - freshly remastered - of the 2001 duo gig, an excerpt from which appeared in 2002 on a long-deleted Sound 323 mini-CD which was voted a record of the year by THE WIRE magazine in 2002.

 

Here at last is the full performance in all its exhilarating acoustic power; an unplugged (but very intense) set from a hot and summery Wednesday afternoon, recorded in the basement of Sound 323 in London by Tim Fletcher.

 

“Fell and Bailey goad each other into some of the most impassioned playing I've heard from either artist. The opening is explosive, with sonic shards and fragments flying across the sound stage, the two instruments at times indistinguishable in the sound mass. The later part of the track yields some respite, with arco bass and gentle atonal guitar lines - 'insect music' maybe - but the overall tenor is muscular and intense. The antagonists show no signs of flagging in their search for new instrumental sonorities - at one point I could have sworn there was a dog yelping in there. The result could become quite a collector's item. Aesthetically, it's a delightfully minimal little product ... it might be a good idea to get yours soon.” (Andy Hamilton THE WIRE)

 

Voted one of SQUIDCO.COM's top 40 best selling albums of 2013

 

Matt Davis / Phil Durrant / Mark Wastell

(ccs 24)

Matt Davis : trumpet

Phil Durrant : violin

Mark Wastell : violoncello

 

Recorded by Tim Fletcher at St. Michael's and All Angels church, Chiswick, London, August 2000.

 

Re-issue of one of the earliest Confront releases, originally available in an edition of 50 in 2001.

 

The All Angels concert series ran between 1999 and 2001. Co-curated by Rhodri Davies and myself, we wanted to find an environment that was acoustically articulate enough to present our own quickly developing style of music. Rhodri found the perfectly beautiful Norman Shaw designed church, close to his then home, in Chiswick, West London. Once our base was established, there was a swift upward trajectory in our confidence to push forward with our own material.

 

All Angels enabled us to experiment with new combinations and groupings of musicians of our own choosing - some of which remain active to this day; The Sealed Knot, CRANC and Rhodri's duo with John Butcher all made their debut concerts within it's thick stone walls.

 

One such grouping was the trio represented on this recording; it's debut concert. I'd first met Matt Davis as long ago as 1996, at a London Musicians Collective workshop led by Eddie Prevost, and we'd subsequently played together in numerous formations. Phil Durrant and I had been playing together as a duo, in Assumed Possibilities (with Chris Burn and Rhodri) and the Chris Burn Ensemble, since 1997/8.

 

Matt was visiting from an extended stay as an english teacher in Barcelona (to where he soon returned) and I decided to stage a welcome home concert to help persuade him to stay in London (it didn't work!). Phil was an obviously compatible choice.

 

The music we played that night clearly stated something new in our individual and shared vocabularies and includes that very special ingredient, that unidentifiable, exhilarating feeling of wonder at creating something beyond your known capabilities.

 

Although the trio wasn't exactly over-subscribed with offers, this concert was the springboard for further explorations together and it definitely felt like a working outfit, notably a shared London concert with visiting Japanese musicians Taku Unami, Masafumi Ezaki and Masahiko Okura, followed by a series of rehearsals in the basement of Sound 323 record shop which oversaw our transformation from acoustic to electronic instruments and which led to an offer from Jon Abbey and the eventual recording sessions that resulted in our release 'open' for Erstwhile Records. (Mark Wastell)