So today was a lot of fun, if a little tiring coming after a late night last night. Today, myself along with two thirds of the group Loris, Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes, drove to Brighton to see the third member of the group Daniel Jones, along with his partner Laura and their four month old son Jack. A good time was had by all, despite the rainy weather and overall tiredness of just about all of our party aged more than four months. I also took along Datura, the seventh and final Jeph Jerman CD in this mini series of reviews for us all to listen to. As it turned out we didn’t listen to all of it, as both Patrick and Daniel were already familiar with the recording and so my hope of having them listen blind and give their thoughts on what they were hearing was spoilt, but ti was still interesting to hear others’ thoughts on what is a remarkable piece of music.
A bit of googling revealed a Datura to be a shrub-like plant that disperses seeds and has sharp, cactus-like spines around the edges of its leaves. From what we all agreed today, the sounds on this CD are all generated from contact mic recordings of the plant being “played” as if it were any instrument. So we hear rattling seeds, fingers rub and stroked through sharp needles and an assortment of other sounds that nobody could quite pin down to any one action. The sounds are incredible, a wide variety of clicks and pops, groans and wails. The question then is how they are all brought together here to make the dense stream of sounds that make up the single track on the disc, complete with a loose rhythmic structure.
I am quite certain that there is a degree of layering of sounds here using the computer listed on the liner notes, and maybe also some sounds are looped, as there are portions of the disc where elements can be heard identically over and over, such as one warbling purr that reminds me of a common British pigeon but might be created by a part of the datura plant being rubbed or scraped in some way. Throughout the recording I have a constant feel of watery, nautical rocking as there is a repeated feel of the music slowly churning over in a slightly hypnotic manner, like the calm, but relentless lapping of the tide against a harbour wall.
If it wasn’t already known that the music involves plants I don’t think any of us would have been able to identify the source of these sounds. To some degree the use of contact mics to capture sounds does push things some way away from what the naked ear might have heard while the plant was being “played”, but still the music here doesn’t sound much like you might think it would. We are instead presented with this rich, swarming stream of small details, the like of which I’m not sure I have heard before from any other musician. This music has Jeph Jerman written all through it, from the scratchy cloudiness of the source recordings to the massed detail of the layered composition. It was agreed by all this afternoon that a quite remarkable and individual musical mind was at work to create this music, right from the initial idea to even attempt to get sounds from the datura, but then to assemble these into the music we hear. This CD struck me as a nice way to round off this week of Jeph Jerman write-ups simply because this last disc is just so typical of his work, original and creative using natural methods of sound creation, but not forgetting the actual music itself, keeping it interesting, exciting and engaging. Datura might just be my favourite of the seven discs I have played this week, saved to last. I hope not to leave it another five years before spending some quality time with Jeph Jerman’s music again.