CD Reviews

Wednesday 24th June

June 25, 2009

Another tedious, demoralising day, but I am home now and not at work tomorrow so the really ghastly Spanish wine I have here tonight tastes slightly sweeter for that news. A couple more pointers towards more free downloads first tonight- Paul Abbott, Benedict Drew and Seymour Wright have added some more updates to their ongoing Flat grey marked suspended pole holds tree site, including an hour or so more audio amongst the drawings and photos of lunch. I listened to half of the new music uploaded today and, like the previous material there I felt I wouldn’t be able to review it as the music has a strange feel to it, as if it was not made with any audience in mind. (which I don’t think it was) The recordings feel like ongoing practice sessions that perhaps we shouldn’t be listening to, (though obviously we should.) They sound unlike either a live concert or a CD release (and obviously they are neither!) and so reviewing them in any way doesn’t feel the right thing to do. Anyway, go listen.

Also, Guillaume Viltard, the French bassist currently resident in London has a solo album called Running Away out on the Un Rêve Nu label that is available both as what looks like a nicely made CD package alongside a free FLAC download, so you can go and get the album for free right now. I have so far only managed to listen to the first track and enjoyed it lots, I’ll try and listen to it in more detail very soon.

This evening though, first on the train home but again now on the hi-fi I have been listening to the second Phosphor album on the consistently strong Potlatch label. Phoshor are Burkhard Beins, Axel Dorner, Robin Hayward, Annette Krebs, Andrea Neumann, Michael Renkel and Ignaz Schick (Allesandro Bosetti has left the group since the first album recorded way back in 2001) This new album (imaginatively named Phosphor II) is really great though. There are six tracks, each involving (I think) all of the group, but the task of mixing the tracks down was split  up between the musicians, with Beins and Krebs mixing two tracks each, and Krebs and Dorner handling the other two. It may be coincidence, or it may be that tracks that best suited the characteristics of particular musicians were given to them to work with, but it feels as if the character of the musicians mixing the tracks really shines through. For instance the opening piece, named P7 (picking up from where the first album left off) is an exciting, fast moving series of jerky cuts between one musician to the next. That one was mixed by Annette Krebs. The next two are slower, quieter affairs with a stronger sense of texture  and gradual growth ahead of surprising juxtaposition. Those two were the work of Burkhard Beins. Renkel mixes the next two tracks, which fall somewhere between the other approaches, a blend of  patient, understated sounds with sudden shifts in gear just before anything can get boring. The last track, with Dorner at the mixing desk contains a lot of his trumpet combined with just one or two other instruments at any one time in little episodic sections spaced apart by little moments of calm, or often complete silence.

These seven musicians know each other very well and over the last decade have played together often in one group or another, but not as one complete unit. The skill and experience of the musicians really shines through though. The timing of the music, and the placement of sounds by the musicians is fantastic, so it never feels like seven musicians are fighting to be heard. It feels like just the right sound appears at just the right time by one musician or another just when it is needed, but at no point do two arrive when they both weren’t needed, and no one seems to be trying to bring the music in one direction as someone else pulls the opposite way. The end result is a sparky, alive, but also finely crafted and well executed album that allows the different voices of the musicians to come to the fore in turn, but without feeling forced at all.

This may be a little insulting to the Berliners that made this album, but listening to Phoshor II I am repeatedly reminded of the current London improv community, a collection of individual, disparate musicians and sounds that can come together and work together in a manner that does not stifle individual expression and works towards creating a focussed, single piece of music when called upon to do so. Phosphor II is more than the sum of its parts. Throughout the myriad of little moments and scenarios within the album it always kept me completely engaged, often surprised and always happy. Another success from the extremely reliable Potlatch imprint.

Comments (7)

  • jon abbey

    June 25, 2009 at 2:33 am

    “These seven musicians know each other very well and over the last decade have played together often in one group or another, but not as one complete unit.”

    Annette said they play gigs as Phosphor about once a year, Brian O and I saw one in Nancy back in the day.

    anyway, I haven’t gotten my copies of this quite yet, but I like the cover.

  • jon abbey

    June 25, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    just got my copies of this today, looking forward to listening later. looking at the credits, though, and I have to correct something Richard wrote above:

    “the task of mixing the tracks down was split up between the musicians, with Beins and Krebs mixing two tracks each, and Krebs and Dorner handling the other two.”

    while the mixing was split up, each track looks like it was done by one person. of the six tracks, Burkhard did two, Axel did one, Annette did one, and Michael did two. Jacques can correct me if that’s wrong, but it seems pretty clear from the liners.

  • Richard Pinnell

    June 25, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Yeah there is a typo in what I wrote, the first Krebs should read Renkel, then it makes sense. Each track was mixed by one person, Beins did two tracks, as did Renkel, Dorner and Annette one each. Sorry I didn’t make that clear enough.

  • jon abbey

    June 25, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    oh, gotcha, I missed your “each” and just took away that they had mixed in pairs, my bad also.

  • hbbk

    July 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    hi all

    Listening freely to the flac of Running Away is good, but buying the CD is better 😉
    Available soon at sound 323 or directly with Guillaume or me 😉

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Ha. You must be Heddy. Welcome.!

    I will listen to this album very soon and write something on it as I like Viltard’s music. I will also buy the proper CD when I see a copy…

  • hbbk

    July 4, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Yes I’m Heddy. Great thanks a lot Richard.

Leave a Reply