Darkness At Noon

Far Rainbow are the English players Bobby Barry and Emily Mary Barnett who have developed a diffuse performing style with their electronics and live drumming, creating a psychedelic-ish spectacle worth seeing live (many assure me). Previous releases heard here have been representative of this set-up, but today’s release Noon: 22nd Century (ZEROWAVE ZWAV005) is of a slightly different order, mainly because they’ve extended the band through collaboration: Cath Roberts adds her saxophone work to both sides, while Side A sees them joined by Colin Webster (another sax improviser, known for lending his instrument to all manner of situations) and on Side B there’s the trombone of Tullis Rennie. Far Rainbow wanted to experiment with other players to lift themselves out of the potential trap of becoming a form of background music; Bobby Barry feared they were merely creating “atmospheres”.

The tape documents these comings-together at live gigs in London and Canterbury. On ‘Creeping Over The Yellow Space’, it’s a thick and dense wodge of music that ends up on the tape, but the players manage somehow to keep everything on the right side of overload and chaos. There’s certainly a lot of content to digest, but the core of the music remains a heaving, slo-mo pulsing of irregular rhythms, like the slow inflation of a gigantic balloon. There’s not much interest in varying the groove with pronounced dynamics, once they get into it; it’s more like a gradual release of nuclear energy that can’t be stopped once that cannister of plutonium is opened. Far Rainbow’s sound is always uplifting and joyous, and while I often find the actual finished pieces are rather shapeless, this is one instance where that factor works in their favour.

‘Creeping’ starts with looped field recordings of brid song, which are soon drowned out by the rich full-on din; the B side, ‘A Broad Trembling Cloud’, likewise has field recordings (perhaps of some street evangelist testifying to his conversion), which lay the way for the players to start making incursions into the virgin territory. Tullis Rennie’s trombone comes to the fore, uttering strange elephantine whines and howls which delight in their alienating effect, and seem to fit perfectly with Barnett’s halting, juddering drum rhythms. This ‘Cloud’ piece lumbers along in an engagingly klunky manner for several minutes, like an old banger obstinately refusing to get into gear. Somehow there’s a bit more breathing space and eccentric dynamics than on the A side, which are good, and while it’s not quite as full-on with the psychedelic energy-burst elements, I prefer the craggy shapes and unexpected intervals on offer. From 1st August 2017.

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