On Margate Sounds

MPH
Taxonomies
UK DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 87CD (2019)

Late in summer 2018, three seasoned jazz heads debuted their trio in two South Eastern England studios for one electric freeform extravaganza. Seasoned by existing rapport and strong associations with the likes of Gong, Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and the post Soft Machine outfit, Soft Heap, the musicians Alex Maguire (piano / Hammond organ), Martin Pyne (vibraphone / percussion) and Mark Hewins (guitars) soon jammed themselves into a crepuscular funk and left the tape rolling in the confidence that ever stranger sights awaited their every turn.

While their serendipitous abbreviation, MPH, waggishly suggests physical distance, the trio traffics exclusively in free association between oneirically familiar points of reference (e.g. blues, jazz etc.) using the tools of brooding piano and percussion, electric microtonal squigglings and lysergic harmonics. Early tracks like ‘Torment’ and ‘Eyebright’ might gull listeners into expecting safe and easy listening between laconic night jazz and minimal improv with just a swirl of In a Silent Way (‘False Jasmine’), but it quickly (if not ostentatiously) moves to the margins.

Later tracks like ‘Purple Loosestrife’ and ‘Rocket Larkspear’ offer bumpier rides: organ and piano going bonkers and chromatically scaling lawn bumps in a cold metallic light. At ‘Lamina’ we are summarily dumped in the middle of nowhere, except it’s not us but the musicians who are blindfolded and comically groping for the escape route while signaling their locations in different tongues. Such chimeric genre permutations are well served by the titular taxonomy of Borgesian beasts (‘Psychedelic Frogfish’ is another) assigned to many of the tracks as though such acts of naming provide the only way to render these unusual events audible to human ears.

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