Combined Confront releases review in THE WIRE by JULIAN COWLEY

June 17, 2014

Six Studies, recorded in 2012, is a welcomed yet mildly frustrating solo release from violinist Angharad Davies. There's a certain fascination in hearing her hone unorthodox techniques on tracks such as "Circular Bowing Study" and "Tremolo And Plastic Peg Study". But these eludes seem provisional, almost tentative steps along the way, not unlike Joan La Barbara's debut Voice Is The Original Instrumnet (1976), which presented demonstration pieces such as "Circular Song" and "One-Note Internal Resonance Investigation". Prefatory statements, maybe, with more fulfilling solo work from Davis to follow.

The disc is part of the Collectors Series, issued by Mark Wastell's recently reactivated Confront imprint. "The collector's passion," Walter Benjamin observed, "borders on the chaos of memories." Within the formal neatness of this series Wastell appears to be taking stock of precious moments from his past in improvised music, granting them a kind of order and a catalogue number. Each CD is designed to resemble a vinyl record - with faked grooves and gaps between tracks - to draw attention to itself as a material object rather than simply a medium of transmission, each is packaged in a square metal box ideally suited to insulate the artefact from chaos.

The two other additions to the catalogue have been issued before. Davis, Wastell and Durrant's trumpet, cello and violin trio was captured in a West London church in 2000; the IST trio, featuring Wastell, bassist Simon Fell and harpist Rhodri Davies was recorded at a South London club in 1997. Both represent the now familiar turn to undemonstrative, lowercase yet concentrated and spontaneously intricate music making of the time. The church ambience suggests patterns of sparks and gleams in surrounding darkness. The club recording thrives on tensions that build from Fell resolutely reining in. We listen differently today, in part because of recordings such as these. In itself that is sufficient justification for an archive of improvised music, and Wastell has undoubtedly named his series with appropriate irony, while pitching towards some point where a collector's passion and an improvisor's passion might coincide. 

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