Here’s one for those who like their edges jagged, regard scrapyards as recreation spaces and relish the experience of switching on their radio to a moment of nebulous half-silence in the middle of a yet-unnamed modern musical contrivance. London’s Found Drowned will intrigue and impress improv enthusiasts with the savvy smile of a salvage salesman. Their animated racket broadcasts from the setting-up of one of Tom Waits’ Island-era junkyard orchestras: all hammers, nails and swollen thumbs, with a good measure of barbed wire wound haphazardly around the theatre of operations.
The first three tracks slide by with seemingly little to distinguish one set of exploratory scrapes and rattles from another. Halfway through ‘Taken Aim’ though, a plea for a more patient pace seeps from Peter Marsh’s slowly slithering double bass, briefly prompting fellow noiseniks James O’Sullivan (guitar) and Paul May (drums) to settle into more distinct modes of behaviour. But O’Sullivan – at once like a mute trumpet panicked by the directive – proceeds to exhibit his schizophrenia in detail: shards of shrieking shrapnel one way, jostled whammy bar blasting waves of blood into the skull, while May rolls like a sedated Han Bennink, tapping anything that returns a rhythm. Marsh’s cautionary note is reprised in the ever-so-slight ‘Plane’, in which a shy but seething sheet of feedback tempers the rhythm section’s waywardness.
No single state stays fixed for long though. The lineup suggests jazz, but there’s little to indicate an idiomatic ideology, save for a teasing trace of walking bass – sometimes bulbous and bouncy – counterpointed by a high-end spray of scrap-metal cymbals and a drifting scrape of guitar. These moments are perhaps what best defines the Found Drowned sound: the ability to hold together while ripping apart at the seams. Apparent antecedents such as AMM are paid homage.
The recording is so closely miked that the performers’ limbs practically project from the stereo speakers. This takes me back to gigs in small, cold rooms more peopled by musicians than quiet curiosity seekers; the band: sipping a pint, mumbling private jokes, retuning, resuming serious aspect and launching into another undefined journey. However, in the luxury of a warm living room the listening experience can be savoured so much more.
Found Drowned’s James O’Sullivan unplugs (so to speak) from his manifold group activities for a personalised parade of growls, grinds, squeaks, squawks, tings, taps, furry feedback and motorised rumbles on Feed Back Couple (FORWIND FWD02); all rendered via the elastic personality of his electric guitar, which will doubtless delight devotees of John Zorn’s Book of Heads or early Incus recordings, whose damp bedsit atmosphere is recreated here. Over 45 minutes, during which pieces lengthen incrementally (and culminating in the 20 minute fuzz-fest, ‘Fine Line’), O’Sullivan finds space to expound upon ideas that might not otherwise have found sufficient breathing space; fixating on subtleties teased delicate from his six strings, mounted on medium-frequency air and recorded there for posterity.
He demonstrates an attention to detail that sometimes meanders into ambling abstraction, the salience of which lies in the province of the respective listener. Some may be intrigued by his affiliation with Eddie Prevost’s Experimental Workshop, in which certain of O’Sullivan’s ideas presumably originate. Personally, I feel that much of this might have been better incorporated into the Found Drowned album as a set of solo interludes, where the groupings’ respective tendencies to ramble and rant might have had a beneficial influence on one another. However, taken in short measures these recordings have the clear capacity to transport the listener to new and strangely shadowed situations.