CD Reviews

Saturday 11th July

July 11, 2009

Still feel like hell. I’m actually very slightly worried about the possibility of swine flu now. I always shift a cold within 48 hours. This has lasted longer and is getting worse. Its unlike me to join in national paranoia campaigns but I really do feel ill and getting through work today was not easy at all. I’ll give it until Monday. If no improvement by then I will go see a doctor.

Anyway I was home by ten tonight so have had a little more chance to spend some time with some music. Today I have been listening again to a disc I have enjoyed a lot over the past few weeks, the brilliantly titled Loiter Volcano by the trio of Ute Kanngiesser, (cello) Paul Abbott, (electronics) and Léo Dumont (percussion). This is another in the series of four CDrs released on the Another Timbre label as part of their Byways series. Kanngiesser and Abbott are, as regular readers here will know, two of my favourite young musicians coming through in London right now, Dumont is a French percussionist whose work I really like a lot, who was recorded with this group back in March by Simon Reynell in the Church of St James the Great in North London.Â

Now in theory, this trio shouldn’t work, and if you pay attention to certain schools of thought they shouldn’t even be playing together. Kanngiesser is a brilliant, but very “busy” and expressive young cellist that does not leave a lot of room for silence in her playing. Abbott is an intense musician working with wild, partly unpredictable electronics that he somehow keeps reined in, though occasionally things do explode. Dumont has a history of playing very quietly (though not exclusively). Perhaps though (and the musicians will hate me for saying this, sorry guys!) if there is one CD release that best encapsulates the spirit of openness and possibility that is currently rife in London this might be it. This CD works because the three musicians have found a way to make it work. All three have moved slightly from their comfort zones to find ways of combining into an intriguing, challenging but coherent trio.

Kanngiesser’s cello sound is present just about continually through this single forty-six minute piece. For the most part her input is subdued though, as expressionistic and vivid as ever, but quieter, or at least no louder than the other two musicians. Dumont spends a lot of time intertwining his little acoustic cracks and scrapes around the shapes that she throws, more continuously active than I have heard him before. Abbott keeps his input in check, allowing regular, often sudden slithers of feedback and vibrating metal to penetrate the music, but never quite to the degree that the music is completely shifted off balance. His presence gives the album much of its tension, as you never quite know what to expect, or how to expect it. If Kanngiesser’s playing is luxurious, rich and something to lie back and float upon, Dumont adds some structure, a frame for the music, never going near anything like a rhythm but giving things an earthy, rooted feeling. Abbott then carves shapes into the music every so often with his streams of feedback and metallic shards.

All together, Loiter Volcano is a constant stream of thoughtful, challenging music that doesn’t let the listener rest up for one moment. The album was recorded without an audience present, and I wasn’t there, but I can imagine how the room would have felt, a feeling of quietly respectful tension beforehand, and three very exhausted musicians right after. There is a lot of careful listening taking place in this music. If Kanngiesser’s playing sounds continuous it is not without tremendous sensitivity to whatever else is happening. The agility she shows to adjust the pace, volume or energy in her playing to either match or offset the sounds of her colleagues is admirable. Abbott has the ability at his fingertips to obliterate the output of the other two whenever he chooses, but his control is excellent, both physically and mentally, choosing the right moments to add to the mix, be it a gentle whistle for a spilt second or a semi-seismic crash. Dumont’s ear is finely tuned to everything throughout, his sound appearing in just the right places and rising to the foreground every so often in a manner that feels very natural.

Natural is a good word to describe how Loiter Volcano sounds. Despite the variety in playing styles present this does not feel like a trio that has been forced together. All three will release other CDs that better display their more comfortable musical characters, but here this trio showcases their ability to accept challenge, confront failure and find a way to work together without losing individuality. Another great Paul Abbott sleeve too.

Anyone go to the Treatise performance in London today? I’d love to know how it went.

On a completely separate note… in the absence of any one-liners from Mr Halliwell today I got my one and only laugh from my copy of the New Humanist magazine that arrived in the post today, which included the first half of their God Trumps pack of cards. So funny. Brian at least, – take a look here.

Comments (2)

  • Stephen Cornford

    July 12, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    “Anyone go to the Treatise performance in London today? I’d love to know how it went.”

    I made it down, but only for the last hour and a half or so, so I didn’t get a feel for the whole thing at all. It looked like it had been a really interesting day. Lots of visual dealings with the score, as well as musical: Angharad spent most of the time I was there replicating one page in vertical string lines on the wall, then taping marbles onto them. Someone had strung several violins up in a row overhead, fishing line snaking between them. I really enjoyed Rhodri’s playing, as well as the ebowed, fanned and cappuccino whisked harp you would expect he had a lot of cymbals and gongs which he spent a some time pouring rice into, and rolling marbles around in. John Lely played very quietly while I was there. Lee was up to his usual tricks, a particularly satisfying nut-burn, and a great patch of vibrator on drum. Sadly I found Tim Parkinson’s contributions fairly annoying. He played a few snatches of other scores on a small organ, which worked fantastically the first time, but soon wore thin, he also put on a cd of Beethoven’s 5th for a while, and sent wind up toys scattering across a Casio keyboard, one of which hit the “DEMO” button, aaarggh. Still, would have loved to have been able to see more of it.

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 12, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks Stephen

    It sounds great. Wish I hadn’t asked for comments about it now! 😉

    Its a concert I could never have made it along to as it just happened on the wrong day, but still these things annoy me.

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