Sunday 21st JuneJune 21, 2009
After a week when I have felt quite low, tired, unwell and capable of upsetting anyone and everyone I come in contact with I managed something quite satisfying this evening by finally (first time in about a year I think) getting every CD here up onto the relevant shelves they belong on. There remains one bank of shelves for unlistened to discs, I lost count when it went over sixty. I decided tonight that I am going to go into work tomorrow and sort myself out with a week’s holiday for as soon as I can, so I can spend it catching up on all of the things I am behind with here, listening to all of this stuff being one of them. This afternoon, after Julie headed home I sat in the garden for a while reading and listening to the recent Midhopestones release on Another Timbre, but my listening was curtailed when it started to rain and I had to run about grabbing freshly laundered washing off the line. Grumble grumble… Anyway I was going to write a post about my back garden and how I like to go there and listen to music but that will have to wait for another time (sorry Ben!) Midhopestones is good though, more on that one soon.
I did manage to listen through twice tonight to the three free downloads available from Sebastian Lexer’s new website and really enjoyed them a lot. The three pieces were all recorded at one concert held at Goldsmiths College at the end of March, one of them a solo by Lexer, and the other two are trio performances by Lexer, Frederic Blondy and John Edwards. More on the solo in a minute, first it should be noted that the trio probably only intended to play one set, but one of them was interrupted by an unwanted member of the audience shouting madly, presumably at the musicians. The piece begins with a nice series of slow paced, but busily varied interchanges. As it progresses the pace increases and decreases as the piano / piano+ / bass trio fold their sounds in over each other really nicely, with no one of the three dominating the recording, and although the music remains full of energy and flair there is also plenty of space in the music. Ultimately its a great recording of straight-up quality improvised music. There are no new genres being invented, no attempts to rewrite the rule book, just the meeting of three musicians that hadn’t played together before firing on all cylinders- great stuff. Ten minutes in and I think the first appearance of the additional unexpected extra voice can be heard, wailing along with the music in the distance. A few minutes later it is there again, at this point not that intrusive and actually a nice addition to the music. Maybe these additions are in my imagination though, as the two neanderthal yells that bring the music to a sudden halt sound different, very close-by and unavoidable. Whoever they come from sounds like either a complete idiot or someone with some kind of mental deficiency. You could argue that the interruption provided a nice way of ending the piece, but I imagine on the evening in question the culprit was jut an annoying and maybe slightly frightening addition to the event.
The second trio piece, this time without the unwanted intrusion, picks up where the last piece left off, with Lexer working all kinds of eerie electronic sounds from his piano and laptop set-up, building the music almost single-handedly into a mini maelstrom before the other two musicians flow out from his ringing tones. Quieter passages come and go, one nice little section allows Edwards to flurry up and down the neck of his bass, almost mimicking a piano, until later he is joined by the tinny notes of Blondy’s piano with something metal restricting the strings. These two pieces are great, probably not of interest to those that draw an imaginary line through improvised music and then reject everything on the “EFI” side of it, but to the rest of us a fine listen.
The twenty-four minute solo from Lexer is lovely. I’m not sure what it is about the prepared piano in an improvised setting but for me it rarely fails, be it John Tilbury, Cor Fuhler, Tisha Mukarji, Sophie Agnel or whoever behind the keys, (or in the case of Sebastian Lexer behind the keys and the knobs and buttons) This recording runs right through the emotions. there are little quiet, contemplative moments when electronic scribbles blend with standard piano sounds, then there are intense, brooding sections where you cannot help but think of AMM as the music grows to a climax, combinations of percussive crashes and swells of tone. If traces of Tilbury can easily be heard in his student’s playing it is only one part of Lexer’s arsenal, and the ease and skill with which he uses the extended electronic capabilities of his piano+ systems allows him to conjure a wide range of sounds and textures, but always retaining a tangible sense of the immediate human touch. This doesn’t sound like laptop music.
Anyway, go and download it and hear for yourself. If you like it, a solo CD from Lexer is due soon on the Matchless label. I for one can’t wait.