Saturday 7th NovemberNovember 7, 2009
Apologies for the miserable outlook of last night’s post. I didn’t have the best of days yesterday, and when you write every day I guess there has to be days when you’re just not in the mood. Anyway today was spent doing far more constructive things than moaning, and I managed to wrap my ears around a few CDs today as well. When I was in Ireland recently I was kindly given copies of three new releases on the Swedish Bombax, Bombax label. I was handed them by the percussionist Erik Carlsson, who manages to appear on all three of them. I like this label quite a bit, and wrote about their first series of three excellent discs here. The first of the three discs I have listened to is actually a solo from Carlsson named, rather finely, Let’s Fall in Love!.
The CD, which I think is Carlsson’s first solo outing contains three tracks and clocks in at just under half an hour in length. From what I can tell it is an entirely acoustic affair, though Carlsson has used electronics in his set-up on other occasions. Solo acoustic percussion improvisation is always a difficult thing to pull off. Minimal approaches to the form tend to work well, Sean Meehan and Mark Wastell’s work springs to mind, but music involving a wider range of textures rarely sound great to my ears. There are doubtlessly many great examples I am forgetting, but right now only Le Quan Ninh’s solo work springs to mind when it comes to busier solo work.
Erik Carlsson’s music is neither busy or minimal. In fact it is very hard to categorise indeed, not really belonging to any of the supposed camps within modern improvised music, which can only be a good thing. He has a great ear for texture and the quality of sounds, and in collaborative settings I have always been very impressed with his timing. On the opening track here, ludicrously titled My Heart was Screamin’ Like a Cow he leaves very little silence, but works with a range of bowed metals and constant patterns of slowly decaying chimes to present a slow, atmospheric, and gorgeously attractive music. The track opens with a persistent, grinding note coaxed from the edge of something metal with a bow. As this cloying tone is allowed to hang in the air resonating he begins to softly strike a range of small bells and other pieces of metallic percussion so the continual tone is punctuated by this gentle steam of almost ritualistic sounding chimes. As the thirteen minute piece progresses so the bowed sounds disappear and the patterns of bells, joined by a softly struck bass drum and the odd cymbal grow outwards into a continual pattern of more brightly toned, gamelan-like half-rhythms. I can’t really think of anything else that sounds anything like this, the only thing I am vaguely reminded of is Oren Ambarchi’s solo guitar works, but the sounds here are all metallic, all percussive, there is no attempt to hide what is being played. A very beautiful, very simple track and very nicely recorded, so every dying ember of every strike is captured and allowed to dissolve slowly.
The second piece is named Vanity Captured Me Once Again, and is quite a different cup of tea. it opens with a series of quiet little shuffles and textural rubbings, recorded very close, possibly via contact mics. How these are generated is impossible to tell beyond the idea that they are tiny sounds blown up into larger events. Its like listening in on a snail making dinner. This approach to percussion is less unusual, but it is done well here, and once after a couple of listens through I managed to stop wondering how the music had been made and started listening purely to the abstract sounds it works very nicely, a carefully put together little construction rather than just a series of interesting random scribbles.
The title of the final piece really made me laugh, though I’m really not sure why. We Could Die returns us to the bowed and struck small metals, forming a colourful sandwich with a murky, crunchy filling. This final track, just under nine minutes in length uses a narrow, but much higher range of sounds. Tiny bells are struck and allowed to ring, and others are bowed, in no real discernable order, gradually increasing in speed until what we hear is a flurry of silvery tinkling and ringing. Through all of this one particularly piercing continual tone emerges, into which the other strikes fall and slowly disappear. Despite using generally fragile, high pitched sounds at relatively low volume, close listening makes this music overpowering, vibrating around the listener’s head. It certainly isn’t one for tinnitus sufferers, but it is unusual and an engaging work played with no small amount of skill. Â That description sums up Let’s Fall in Love! in general. Carlsson has risen high in my opinion over recent years but remains largely unsung in wider circles. Definitely one to check out, and I am looking forward to playing the other two new releases he appears on.
Oh and by the way it seems the site went down again last night for a few hours. I had to email the hosting company at 6AM here to get it sorted, which they did very quickly. Apologies for any inconvenience, but then if a few less people got to read last night’s miserable post then that’s probably a good thing… I have been working in the background on a redesign of the site for several weeks now, but I can promise the crash had nothing to do with me!