Not Poppy nor Mandragora

The Mantra Gora record from Linear Obsessional Recordings has been packed in a red “evidence case”, identical to the packaging used for the Estigate release by Colin Webster and Graham Dunning on this label. Matter of fact there’s even an archaeological “sample” waiting for you if you buy one of the 50 limited-edition copies. Said sample comprises an old saxophone reed and a resistor. These clues should prepare you for what you will hear. Like the Webster-Dunning release, it’s a pairing of improvised saxophone, this time from Adrian Northover, and live electronics, this time from Tasos Stamou. Northover is familiar to us from his history with The Remote Viewers and the London Improvisers Orchestra, while Stamou is a new name in these quarters. Judging by his assured approach to the genre of circuit-bending, it’s high time more of us started to investigate this Greek fellow who moved to London from Athens. “The circuits are damper in England’s climate,” he offers by way of explanation. “I get timbral responses I could never get in my homeland, not even in the palace of Knossos.” Their work together on Mantra Gora (LOR052) is about 50% successful to these ears… many interesting sounds, a variety of approaches…making good on the press notes claim to give us “a surprising series of atmospheres and moods”. Plus I’m always a sucker for the sound of woodwinds and electronics combined. But I find myself reaching for the yellow card now and again when Northover either seems to be treading water (blowing accomplished but pointless lower-register drones) or becoming a tad too “melodic”, a move which seems inappropriate somehow in this setting. Tasos Stamou fortunately doesn’t fall into the trap of over-familiar sounds – I suspect that’s unlikely, given his odd setup of prepared zither, cassette loops and test generator – but I’d just love to hear him cut loose and slice a little more garlic into the salad. This wouldn’t just be a matter of increasing the volume, but finding some reserves of passion and zing that might spice up the table. It’s certainly not the first time these two have played together, but I’m disappointed by their lack of interaction on these grooves. I was hoping to be mesmerised by the magic moment when reverberating sax bell and broken electronics hum lock together in the “sweet spot”, but sadly after seven tracks they don’t get close to it. From 3rd July 2014.