Tuesday 9th NovemberNovember 10, 2010
Tonight my better half, another friend and myself went into Oxford to attend a meeting / talk that formed part of the Oxford Skeptics in the Pub series, a semi-formal series of events with a rationalist / humanist theme. Anyway, we arrived at the busy pub, took a seat not that far away from where the speaker would stand and had a drink or two until the event began. It turned out though, that the meeting’s organisers had not thought to arrange for a PA of any kind, and so when the talk began, (which was by a woman with quite a low voice) we couldn’t hear a thing. Not a thing. So we gave up trying to listen and went back to our drinks for the evening. Or at least, the others did. I kept one ear on the room, having quite enjoyed the efforts we had made to try and pick out what the speaker was saying. It wasn’t long before various voices in the crowded, noisy pub sounded familiar, and a door situated on a balcony somewhere above us, with particularly creaking, noisy hinges sounded amazing. It was as if we had come to listen, but as what we had come to hear had become inaudible, so there seemed no reason to stop listening. I quite enjoyed myself in the end, despite not getting to hear what we set out to attend.
Because of all this though, and because I was busy with a multitude of other stuff during the day, I selected a little 3″ disc that arrived here a couple of days back to listen to tonight. I hadn’t heard it before this evening, but have now played it five times. It is a very nicely packaged little item that is also available as a free download from the Insubordinations netlabel. As regular readers will know I’m a sucker for a well put together 3″ release, and this twenty-three minute disc pleases me from the start by being so lovingly put together in a thick card sleeve folded up to house the little disc. If one of the accusations levelled at netlabels is that they don’t care about packaging well then this release proves that theory wrong.
So what is it and what does it sound like? The CD is credited to Diatribes and Phonotopy, which is three people. Diatribes are a Swiss laptop and objects/percussion duo that I have written about before and saw play live last week, Phonotopy is apparently a musician named Yann Leguay, who on this release is credited as playing “tennis cythar and electric racket” Hmm…
Partielle d’Averse, as the disc is titled, is actually a nice little set of crunchy, textural improvisation though, busy and active but not in an old-school improv manner, electroacoustic in feel but with a fair amount of metal and other percussive sound involved. It all feels quite similar to AMM in some ways, a mix of texture and expressive drama but with the three musicians all nicely in tune with one another. Its an engaging affair, quite feisty in its own way, sounds colliding as often as they slip into one another, the musical conversation getting a little heated here and there. For the twenty-three minutes the music keeps you interested, constantly reworking itself and shifting into new patterns, full of energy and never becoming reliant on any sustained sounds as a bed, existing instead as a stream of continual improvised arguments resolved in real time. The spirit and drive of improvisation is at the heart of this music. There is no technical showboating or reliance on either technique or stylish texture, just a recorded moment of shared immediate musical expression.
For some this CD might seem a waste of time. As regularly we complain about how much is released, about how quality standards seem to be falling as CDs and downloads get easier to produce, this little disc, full of improvised music by musicians not that widely known outside of their own smaller circles is the kind of thing that is likely to get missed, passed over, held up as an example of how many CDs exist today.
I find myself asking what else these musicians are meant to do though? In today’s increasingly crowded, but also increasingly fickle experimental CD market there is little that lesser-known musicians can do than try and select the best work they are capable of and present it in as pleasing and accessible manner they can in the hope that their work might become more well known. Diatribes and Phonotopy do just that here by producing a very nice package, that can also be downloaded for free, that contains some very acceptable, often thoroughly pleasing music. Yes there is a lot of music out there, and no, nobody can ever take even half of it in properly, but I personally see the appearance of musicians like the guys in Diatribes, and their subsequent energies and efforts to share their music with a wider audience to be a good sign for our music, evidence that the music can get out there with a reliance on bigger name labels, that the spirit of improvisation is alive and well in more ways than one. So if you have the time, go here and download or buy the music, and if you don’t, well then that’s fine.
Off to Cambridge tomorrow to take in a day of Cagean activities, home late and then up in the early hours the next day to head to Glasgow. I’m not sure when or where my next full length post will appear, but something will appear every day. It all depends on the wi-fi accessibility I have when up in Scotland.