Download Reviews

Wednesday 8th September

September 8, 2010

coverSooooooo tired! But I get a day off tomorrow, at the end of which I hope to attend this concert in London, Besides the recent Proms extravaganza this will be the first concert I have attended in ages. As my bad luck would have it, there is another gig I would have really liked to have attended taking place in London this coming Saturday evening. The trio of Eddie Prévost, John Edwards and John Butcher will play, after the two Johns have performed a duo, and Eddie has played a very rare solo set, working with his barrel drum set-up. Details can be found here, a concert not to missed, though alas due to inescapable work commitments I am going to have to. Grr…

OK, so to the music I have been listening to tonight. Way back in 2000, the Nmperign duo of Greg Kelley and Bhob Rainey visited Berlin, and while there recorded an “informal” quartet recording alongside Burkhard Beins and Axel Dorner. Two years later the recordings made it onto a vinyl only release from the Twisted Village label, which sold out long ago. I didn’t ever buy a copy, primarily because of its existence only as an LP, and the recording has always been something of a gap in my collection of music from this period, which is otherwise missing very little. Recently though Rainey made the recordings available as lossless downloads from his website, alongside a good deal of other albums. Normally he charges for downloads of music, but here, because the music had originally been released, and because a number of people who bought the vinyl might well now want a lossless digital version, Rainey has made the music available for free to anyone that already bought the album. Anyone else can still get it for nothing, or they can pay the price of their choice. Rainey encourages these people to “Do the right thing”.

This is an interesting release for a number of reasons. First of all, irrelevant to the actual music, I wonder how many people that did not originally purchase the music paid anything for this download? I would really hope, given the general nature of people that have any kind of investment in improvised music, that the vast majority paid something. But then, all the time new CDs appear on soulseek and the like within days of their release, so perhaps my positive view of people is unfounded. Then, I also wonder how much the average person paid? I personally gave five dollars, around £4, which, for a lossless, newly remastered download complete with artwork seemed a fair enough price? I would have though that a download should be cheaper than a physical object, but then there are a whole load of overheads involved with recording and presenting any kind of music, so much less than this might be inconsiderate?

Then there is the music. It is, unsurprisingly for these musicians at that point in their career pretty great. It has a freshness and feel of excitement to it, a sense of joy at discovering new things, new musical relationships, perhaps even new ways of playing. One thing interests me a great deal though. In the brief notes at his site Rainey says that the album has come to be considered as a seminal EAI recording. While I personally find the term EAI unnecessary, certainly these four musicians are all names generally associated with the “genre”. What I find interesting though is that the music, in many places sounds really busy and active, and really wouldn’t sound out of place at a Mopomoso concert in London right now. The album’s great mix of gentler, more textural periods and busy, talkatively energetic parts really sounds like the kind of music we have come to expect from a label like Another Timbre in 2010. It is as pure an example of improvised music as I could imagine. It isn’t a seminal EAI album, its a seminal improv album.

The recording consists of five short pieces, the longest of which is just over five minutes long. (It was originally actually just an EP- does this make $5 seem any more expensive?) Rainey describes the tracks as “songlike” though besides the brief length of the pieces I don’t really see this. The tracks bristle with energy, whether this be an upfront energy as trumpet blasts from Kelley and Dorner  and sax squeaks from Rainey bounce off of Beins’ almost hectic percussion on the busier tracks, or the tightly wound tension of the other, quieter and more textural pieces. The feeling of well-used space comes to me while listening. Sounds do not feel out of place, do not feel like they have been piled up on top of each other, and yet for a group of musicians who at the time of recording were all considered to be leading players in the “reductionist” school of improv there is very little silence in there either. For a recording made a decade ago, it sounds extremely current. Although through knowing the playing of all four musicians quite well I think I would probably have been able to date the music simply by their limited association together, If I didn’t know who was playing on it I suspect otherwise I would not have blinked if this had come out as a new release recorded last year. Its a fine set of recordings, well worth paying something for if you hadn’t already heard it, or if you already own the vinyl its well worth pulling off the shelf to play again.

Comments (2)

  • The Pricing is Right « Bhob Rainey

    September 9, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    […] Sep I was pleasantly surprised to see a review of Nmperign + Dörner/Beins on Richard Pinnell’s blog, The Watchful Ear.  It’s rare that download-only releases of […]

  • Richard Pinnell

    September 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    The above pingback (oh how I hate that stupid word!) links to an interested blog post by Bhob that follows on from my review. It is here.

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