The Sealed Knot - Unwanted Object
Burkhard Beins : percussion
Rhodri Davies : harp
Mark Wastell : double bass
Recorded by Graham Halliwell at The Old School, Bracon Ash, Norfolk 2004
Originally rejected by the record company it was commissioned by, hence the title, Unwanted Object was released on Confront in 2005. It eventually headed up many end of year polls and critics choices lists including a place in The Wire's Top 50 Records of 2005.
"The peculiar mixture between [these] tense, low-whisper nods and the sense of primal telepathy that these men transmit is the very strength of the CD; during almost 40 minutes, the thin link between "subliminal" and "sublime" makes itself visible in several unbelievable sections, where the instruments morph beautifully: percussion breathes hard, the harp is feedback-wrapped, the bass puts a scarf around its own power to stare seriously amidst the throbbing sound waves. The skeleton born from all these processes is hard-boned and with a mind of his own, already" (massimo ricci, touching extremes)
"Impulses seem crucial to the trio's ideas in their limited environment, and their music materializes so freely. The air is filled with deceptively organized patterns and it becomes a nagging wonder that these performances weren't preconceived at all. It is a brilliant work." (Alan Jones, Bagatellen)
Martin Kuchen - Music From One Of The Provinces In The Empire
Martin Kuchen : prepared alto & soprano saxophone
Recorded by Andreas Berthling at Fylkingen, Stockholm, Sweden 2004
"The first track (titles range from Imperial Music I to Imperial Music XV) is one of the strongest, a juxtaposition of rushed breath tones with a furious clacking that sounds as though Kuchen removed the felt pads from his keys and went nuts (it sounds overdubbed, as do some other cuts, but I’m assuming it’s not). When some inquisitive growls and mumblings enter in, the music takes on an interesting imagistic character, the clicks and wheezes suddenly acquiring a feeling of place, the vocalizations implying a narrative. The next enters shakuhachi range (as do several others) while III sounds like Greg Kelley adapted for soprano, a thin sheet of metal set abuzz near the bell if I’m guessing correctly. VIII locates the water barrel, spittle retained for uses elsewhere, and XII is an accurate evocation of a blowtorch. Again, fine in and of themselves. Every piece is solid and played with an impressive degree of command ........ On XIV, Lacy-like arabesques swirl very attractively through the bubbles and mist; I wouldn’t have minded this one going on a good bit longer. XV, however, is the winner of the bunch for these ears, a sequence of overlaid breath tones and burrs possessing an odd quasi-regularity that gives intimations of circuitry and backwards tape." (Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen)
Ist - Lodi
Rhodri Davies : harp
Simon H. Fell : double bass
Mark Wastell : violincello
Recorded at Contemporaneamente, Lodi, Italy 2002
"Truly a seminal improvising group. This trio was the perfect setting for the three to develop their strategies to micro-gestured improvisation. Though the setting for this performance was a classical music festival, the trio's set was comprised of three collective improvisations. Fell, Wastell, and Davies have each developed approaches to playing that deconstruct their string instruments to their essential components (strings, wooden sound boxes, bows, bridges and pegs) and the sound source of vibrating strings, harmonics, overtones, and every manner of scraped, scratched, beaten, bowed, and otherwise prepared timbres. It is their intensified approach to collective listening and interaction that elevates this beyond the astonishing display of extended techniques. In these improvisations, space and silence play as key a role as the sounds that are played. All three are keyed in to formulating improvisations around texture, timbre, density, and duration of sound. The erudite structures emerge with a riveting attention to nuanced detail. And while it was recorded almost five years ago now, it has lost none of its freshness." (Michael Rosenstein SIGNAL TO NOISE)
Nos Phillipe - Shh... Camille
Robert Hopps : prepared guitar, electronics
Jonathan Webb : turntable, electronics
Recorded by Simon Reynell, Hackney, London 2007
"London outfit comprised of Jonathan Webb and Robert Hopps combine processed field recordings with electro-acoustic improvisations generated by guitar, turntables, electronics, and found sounds-the group name, incidentally, inspired by an acquaintance whose visage bears similarities to both actor Ryan Phillippe and Nosferatu (presumably the Max Schreck or Klaus Kinski characterization). Shh.. Camille spends its first eight minutes clumping through a subterranean chamber of hazy atmosphere and cavernous rumbling before breaking through to an industrial zone where seething tones violently pierce the air. The mood turns nightmarish, so much so that one imagines the unwitting explorers moving beyond the factory floor to a burning-hot torture chamber where eviscerated victims cling to life and wail in vain hope of rescue. To their credit, Webb and Hopps choose not to have the piece detonate in an immolating fireball but instead ease it down gently in a well-handled decompression." (Textura)
"Compared with the Confront label's more esoteric and thought-provoking releases, Nos Phillipe's Shh... Camille seems comparatively accessible, and more locked into dominant trends within the drone-o-sphere. For one thing, this record features that tried and tested combo of guitar (albeit prepared) and field recordings, with turntable-derived experimentalism also rearing its head. The outcome is a smudgy twenty-three minutes of grainy, almost lo-fi tones cast with a slightly metallic finish. There are shades of Wiliam Basinski about this. Shh... Camille is certainly an enjoyable listen, and an outing that followers of labels like Room40 and Under The Spire will most likely lap up with great enthusiasm." (Boomkat)
Barry Chabala - An Unrhymed Chord
AN UNRHYMED CHORD (FOR 25 ACOUSTIC GUITARS)
COMPOSED BY MICHAEL PISARO
Barry Chabala : guitar
Composed by Michael Pisaro in 2003
Realized New Jersey, September 2008
"An Unrhymed Chord stretches out over an exhaustive though not unwarranted sixty-five minutes. The title's indication of some twenty-five guitars piling onto the piece might mislead you into expecting a Rhys Chatham/Glen Branca-style bombardment of noise, yet far from it - the music here is meditative and patient blend of overtones, fizzing metallic vibrations and intermittent, harp-like string plucks. The motorised, percussive drone qualities, particularly in the earliest phases of the piece, bring to mind Oren Ambarchi's more acoustic outings or the kinds of elaborate exercises in sustain-sculpting Jason Khan dabbles in. Rather quiet and challenging An Unrhymed Chord nevertheless leaves a warming, resonant impact when digested as a whole." (Boomkat)
"Chabala’s musical sensibilities come very much to the fore. Everything is very gentle and very beautiful. Where the occasional rougher, textural sounds appear they tend to be quieter, sitting in the background and overlaid with soft glowing tones. When the chiming notes appear they are generally clustered together with little else in the background. When ebowed sounds appear they rarely sit alone, instead they overlay other similar sounds so the combination often creates an addition beating effect. In short, Chabala’s realisation is a very intelligent response to a score that could be followed in a very loose way should the musician choose, but here he has created a piece of music that takes Pisaro’s score as a starting point, following it to the letter, but develops outwards into a work of great individual character."
(Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear)
Jonathan McHugh & Mark Wastell - Hydriotaphia
Jonathan McHugh : arp synthesizer, mixing desk
Mark Wastell : 32" paiste tam-tam
Recorded by Jonathan McHugh at the Electronic Music Studios, Goldsmiths College, London 2009
"A combination of ARP 2600, mixing desk and 32” Paiste tam tam, recorded in 2009 at the Electronic Music Studios of London’s Goldsmiths College. The name of the synthesizer might justify the snoopy inquirer’s thinking to a certain French lady working with the same brand of wave generator. However, in spite of the fact that the 45 minutes are – as expected – dominated by low frequencies, there’s not too much inHydriotaphia associable to Madame Radigue. The governing sonority is that born from the gong, which Wastell caresses and strokes following what should be done with a feline who responds purring, closing the eyes and looking harmoniously collaborative until you rub him the wrong way. The alternance between a sense of concentrated study and a prologue to a hypothetical awesome experience is mildly contrasted by the synthesizer’s subtle hisses and small fizzy noises keeping the listener’s feet partially planted in the ground, which is needed to observe the spectral gradations without getting lost in a cloudy bliss and losing focus. Occasionally, the muscle of the synthetic emissions defines the global texture’s shape a little more; those are the moments in which McHugh and Wastell ride their creature’s power, letting some weight grow in the music’s otherwise unearthly emergence. At any rate this is classy stuff, definitely recommended to cultists of serious static droning."
(Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes)
The Scotch of St. James - Live at Amplify
Tim Barnes : prepared (snare)drum & amplification
Mark Wastell : amplified textures, tuned metal
Recorded by Christoph Amann at Labor Sonor, Berlin, Germany 2004
" .......... The following set by Tim Barnes and Mark Wastell was equally refreshing in its subtlety and variety. For anyone familiar with his sometimes quite 'reduced' work, Wastell was surprisingly active, shifting quickly and adeptly between an array of sounds, including hisses, crackles, rumbles, oscillations, pure tones from his electronics, as well as amplified textures and the ringing clarity of his various metallic percussion instruments. Barnes concentrated on a narrower range of sonic materials, often relying solely on gnarled woody cracks on a drum - yet he too also turned to rubbed and scraped cymbals, grainy bowings, vocal exhalations and what seemed to be bells during the course of the improvisation. The resulting interaction between the two embraced both direct trading of gestures and less obvious congruencies of sound; with great subtlety, it brought together space, silence, shifting textures and intriguing timbres in ways that constantly facilitated and rewarded the listener's focussed engagement."
(Wayne Spencer, Bagatellen)
Graham Halliwell - Recorded Delivery
Graham Halliwell : feedback saxophone
Collaborations with : Rhodri Davies : ebow harp
Steve Roden : resonantlighttones
Mark Wastell : tam-tam
Saxophonist Halliwell appears here in three duo performances with Rhodri Davies (playing E-bowed harp), Steve Roden (extracts from his “resonantlighttones”) and Mark Wastell (tam-tam). Halliwell, as has been his practice in recent years, works entirely with saxophonic feedback generation, an approach he discovered independently from other purveyors of this technique, notably John Butcher. Two of the pieces are constructions based on previously recorded material (supplied by Davies and Roden) while the piece with Wastell is an improvisation.
“Recorded Delivery” is a beautifully conceived disc, deeply contemplative, and one of the finest new releases I’ve heard this year. Check it out."
(Just Outside, Brian Olewnick)
Traw & Rhodri Davies – Cwymp Y Dŵr Ar Ganol Dydd
Rhodri Davies : harp, electronics, accelerometer
Owen Martell : sampling, real-time processing
Richard Llewellyn : sampling, real-time processing
Simon Proffitt : sampling, real-time processing
Recorded in Cardiff, Wales 2005
In making Cwymp y Dwr ar Ganol Dydd, each member of Traw took away a selection of Davies' harp + electronics material (recorded by Michael Sansom at Surrey University) and processed them according to his own lights. In July 2005, when the group reconvened in the company of Davies, they improvised with this de- or re-personalised material to make new sound configurations. Davies too was improvising, in this case with his own transmogrified self, and a live feed of his playing was also available to Traw for further manipulation. It's as though Davies had stepped into a sonic hall of mirrors. Traw is a Welsh word meaning pitch, or, in a more poetic sense, diapason, a wholeness, an encompassing. The CD title translates as The Water Falls at Morning's End, and all of the track titles are water-related, named after rivers or waterfalls around the Pontneddfechan-Ystradfellte area of South Wales. But there's more to it than that: 'Mellte', a river, also refers to lightning, and 'Einion Gam', the name of a waterfall, means crooked anvil. On Cwymp y Dwr ar Ganol Dydd, the music is subjected to elemental fire, forged, and doused with water to toughen it up. But forge also means 'to fake', and that too is appropriate: a gloriously fake Rhodri Davies is presented in this recording.'
Halliwell Patterson - Terrain
Lee Patterson : field recordings and amplified devices
Graham Halliwell : saxophone feedback and processing
"When I first listened to Terrain (Confront), we were in the midst of an unexpected second snow in North Carolina. There was something alien and unpredictable about this circumstance, and it seemed to suit this lovely recording from Graham Halliwell and Lee Patterson. Halliwell’s stunning saxophone feedback seems perfectly apposite here, a presence in motion beneath and amidst the distinct environments that Patterson (field recordings and amplified devices) generates. The disc is quite simply one of the richest things I’ve heard this year. Throughout much of this recording there’s a lovely rubbed glass effect which, to my ears at least, partially recalls Bernhard Günter’s contributions to +Minus. These are frosty, icy laminations, amidst which Halliwell seems to be working in an almost imperceptibly intervallic fashion. Occasionally there are slow pulses – almost like homing beacons – that seem to well up. This is especially effective on the opening track, where it ushers in a series of suggestive changes, from a passage of relative density to a distant rumble at the margins and some soft watery drips – it’s almost like being in some cocoon and floated downriver, with everything outside only barely audible. Some similar effect is achieved on the fourth and final selection here, which plumbs the depths in what sounds like a contact-miked bathysphere (or some reverberant frame drum). Yet elsewhere the music sounds somewhat more direct in its articulation. The second piece deals openly with stark contrast in both tonality and dynamic – an emphatic low buzz here, and there a distant feedback whine of crystals singing together, with midrange hum slowly snaking throughout. The third track reveals a beatific glow from within a gentle gauze covering, but there’s no Fenneszian slumber here; rather, the piece delivers some intriguing dissonances and even a few arch harmonic moves. I suppose it’s in the distance between amorphous sound and definite gesture that Halliwell’s and Patterson’s music takes shape. Unpredictable in its beauty, it seems to come and go, almost like the ripples left by rocks skipping over the surface of a pond. (Jason Bivins, Bagatellen)
Oceans of Silver & Blood - Live at Cafe Oto
Joachim Nordwall : analogue synthesizer
Mark Wastell : 32" paiste tam-tam
Recorded by Jonathan McHugh at Cafe Oto, 21 September 2008
"Recorded at London's Cafe Oto last year, the performance starts with the audience immediately shutting up - completely - as soon as the musicians appear. The set is sequenced as a chain of dynamic transformations followwing an arc os sorts. The impact is somewhat substantial at first, physically influential sound waves infused with cyclical tremors eliciting an irresistable unrest forcing us to walk around the room to appreciate the frequencies reacting differently according to the spot.
In the central phase (my overall favourite) we’re gently kissed by the luminosity of softly murmuring hues, the overtones depicting a fragile yet long-lasting echoing which, barring chemical aids, is able to cause the brain to rewind the tape of memory and reliving sensations from the past without actually individuating the details or a precise temporal location. One realizes of having been there before, but I’ll be damned if someone manages to put the finger on how this mechanism works not including the pathetic from-the-manual technicalities utilized by the average psychologist. Still, this is the kind of feeling people might wish when the transition from flesh to ash will finally occur.
Once lulled to rational stupor, the gong’s choral rumble and a swarm of reasonably coarse emissions take centre stage, addressing the sonic organism towards the zone where pulsating awareness and unsympathetically buzzing impediments conduct matching existences, each trying to assert an influence on the psyche. It’s this contiguity that defines the peculiar melange of sweet and sour that the final part of the exhibition holds as a not-so-pleasing surprise. If an embrace is what you’re looking for, this is the wrong place to be in. There’s always a chimera awaiting for annihilation somewhere; Wastell and Nordwall look intentioned to rule out exceptions, even if they keep listening suggestions from the higher spheres of acuity.
In the closing three minutes the artists let the acoustic mass stabilize until a blurred drone remains alone, its audibility gradually decreasing as we near the end. The unvoiced, transfixed spectators ultimately liberate the energies in a polite, if convinced – and deserved – applause. The ideal conclusion for another perfect release by this not overly prolific, tremendously consistent label." (Massimon Ricci, Touching Extremes)
Keith Rowe & Mark Wastell - Live at i-and-e
Keith Rowe : guitar, electronics
Mark Wastell : amplified textures, electronics
Recorded by David Reid at i-and-e, Dublin 2006
This is a long-awaited re-issue, unavailable since 2006. The duo had formed the previous year for ErstQuake in NYC and this was to be their second and, as yet, only other performance together.
"The breadth and depth of [the] music is totally inspiring, I absolutely love this piece of music. Total unity in sound to make a perfect piece in the moment. It doesn't get better than this!" (Gordon W. Smith)
"Keith Rowe and Mark Wastell. This last performance balanced the evening well. Louder, more gestural, bringing the evening to a climax in two ways – the temporal one and also by taking the audience on a long journey to the satisfactory end of the piece – more musically referential towards the end especially as Rowe dropped in a distinct seesawing 6/4 rhythm. Theme and statement and variations... all here but not under the figure of traditional moves. But the strategies are very much the same. They just require a shift in the mode of listening. The audience were prepared to do that, consequently enjoyed the music and gave them warm applause. Deservedly." (Rod Warner)