Common Objects [John Butcher / Rhodri Davies / Lee Patterson]
Live In Morden Tower
RUSSIA MIKROTON MIKROTONCD29 CD (2013)
Three solos and one trio recording, all live and recorded on the 25th of January 2013.
Rhodri Davies has become obsessed by making his harps sound like anything but of late – Wound Response on Altvinyl being a case in point. Here, on “Spatial Principle”, the opening track, after being primed by the opening salvo of noises, my ears were convinced they were hearing the sound of feedback produced by super-hot talkback mics being switched open and shut and not a harp at all. Maybe they were.
“Spatial Principle” suggests emptiness. Pure tones give way to instantaneous bashings; like the insides of alarm clocks are left to cavort over the recumbent instrument. An appealing void generated by Davies’ electric harp. One of many in his harp arsenal I don’t doubt. This is clearly a man with a collection. He even utilises his old, broken harps in his installation/performance work; his performance “Cut and Burn” involved cutting and burning the strings of a concert pedal harp and then restringing the harp and in 2008 he collaborated with Gustav Metzger on a series of events under the title of “Self-Cancellation”.
The second track, “Grade A Fancy” from John Butcher is initially a traditional display of extended technique that our favourite avant-saxophonist opts to assail our senses with, but in short order he subverts any remains of identifiable “style” into an aural cauldron of panicked broth. The sax sounds like one of those small Eastern dual-pipes such as a double-flageolet but more Eastern sounding briefly, before a flurry of energy catapaults the already blurring notes toward an abrupt ending (I wonder was this edited?). A bowler-hatted stereotype rushing for a bus on London Bridge?
Next, Lee Patterson’s “Thoracic Pattern” (referencing the thorax in general or respiratory disease specifically?) sounds like the growl of an abused Hammond organ – it is obviously not a keyboard, it’s probably bits of a broken old umbrella he found on the street, knowing Lee. The piece soon comes to an abrupt halt and what sounds like a room mic recording of a light spot of lead pipe-bending replaces it. Cymbals or other flat brass is bowed.
Our man Patterson, however, is in no hurry. If you told me that Lee’s latest gambit was to attempt to record huge tanks of used motor oil in a brass diving bell with hydrophones, I’d believe you. If I told you this sounds like an abused Hammond Organ falling in slow motion, I wouldn’t be offended or surprised if you laughed in my face, but that exactly what it sounds like to me. Lee says its “amplified devices and processes” on the sleeve. Lee Patterson IS a process in himself. He has spent months if not years obsessively perfecting his sound-making strategies holed up in a Salford bedsit. He never turns his ears off – I had the pleasure of accompanying him on a walk around Brighton a few years ago and a route that normally takes around fifteen minutes became an hour-long slog as he kept stopping and picking things up off the street, putting them to his ear to thoroughly test their sonic potential, before rejecting them. He did, however, almost take a discarded broken umbrella home with him, and that’s a true story. Soon, experimental musicians will be telling each other how “to the extreme” they have “Leepattersoned” their latest sounds.
The group performance track “Breathless, Sodden Trash” is slabs of noise like the strata in a Jurassic cliff face. It ends with a free jazz blow-out played on mining equipment. All that’s left afterwards are the embers. Such velocity and aggression can only be rewarded with …what? Then there is something involving air rotating around something vast. A container ship hull, something like that. It is forcing big bits of something else forcibly down a tube or funnel of some kind. Hearing this using the magic of headphones is a pleasant way to go deaf. The combination of these three players is great – it makes me wish I’d seen the concert – I’m lucky enough to say I have witnessed all three souls perform separately on a few occasions now – because, as good as this recording is, being in the same room as them would have been something else. It’s a futurist jazz if in the future we were all living deep underground and jazz as a musical form had been developed by insects.
At 31 minutes, “Breathless, Sodden Trash” is probably the majority of the whole performance. The first three tracks are so short in duration, (Patterson’s solo piece is struggling to reach seven and a half minutes even), it is possible they be edits of solo performances. It’s a big contrast of duration – the solos are equal to only half the duration of the group recording. Disparate trios – a homogenous trio. Hammered into shape by lichens.
Morden Tower is in Newcastle in the north east of England – I had to stop myself nearly making an erroneous pilgrimage to Morden in South London on the strength of this disc. The sleeve, like all Mikroton releases, is a product of label head Kurt Liedwart’s fertile visual design imagination. As I said, Liedwart runs Mikroton and also gets a production credit here. John Butcher was responsible for the mastering. As you can probably tell, I’m digging this disc. Quite a lot. As with all the other Mikroton titles I own, an Edition of 500.