Tired again tonight, and something of a headache, but some freshly ground coffee and a box of mince pies are doing the trick here now, along with tonight’s Jeph Jerman CD, the fifth in this little mini-series of seven. Tonight’s disc is a live recording of a duo performance by Jeph alongside his fellow percussionist Tim Barnes. The recording was made back in 2005 in Denver. Not there is limited detail on this disc’s card sleeve, so I am making assumptions about the instrumentation used, but trusting my ears a little, much of what we hear comes from a variety of mostly metallic sounding small objects, but with some kind of simple, raw electronics also involved, and maybe a contact mike used somewhere to amplify small sounds.
The music here is mostly very quiet, perhaps because it was played that way, but also maybe because the recording here is a little cloudy, so blurring the detail of some of the sounds made a little, giving the music an aura of intrigue about it, causing you as a listener to really strain the ears a bit to try and work out what you are hearing, or to try and separate the contributions of each musician. I’m not sure I achieve either of this all that often.
It is not merely because I am tired tonight, because I spent a little bit of time with this music at the weekend as well, but this CD has been a really hard one to penetrate. I like the sounds used here a lot, (though I might have preferred a little more definition to the recording) but too often its hard to tell what we are hearing, or who is making which sound. So the sensation of trying to work out what is going on does tend to get a little in the way of relaxing into the music somewhat. Its quite difficult to hear the music as a conversation between the two musicians, primarily because its hard to pick out individual musical voices. There are some well defined moments in the music, usually points when certain sounds rise to the front, such as the heavy groaning sounds, maybe made by something being rubbed across a drumhead that appear around the twenty minute mark, or the sudden wrenches of electronic sound that we heard ten minutes before.
My favourite moments come just a little before the half hour mark when both musicians work with bold percussive sounds, ringing tones, scraped metal etc and a nice, urgent tension builds in the music, adrenalin kicking in for just a moment or two. This section soon subsides though, and for much of the disc the clarity and direct mannerisms of that section of the performance are absent and things fall back into the blurred haze of sounds we heard before.
I suspect that this performance would have been far more engaging if witnessed in person, as I think that the visual impact of the performers may have added much more clarity to the music, but as a recording here I’ve struggled a bit with Live at + Gallery Denver. The quality of the musicians here is never in question, the performance was probably fantastic to witness live, but here the murky qualities of the recording only serves to blur the already quiet and hard to separate sounds made by the musicians, making enjoyment of this disc more of a challenge than I suspected it might be. Maybe one to live with a few times more.