CD Reviews

Monday 29th November

November 29, 2010

packshot1Sorry for the utter rubbish I wrote last night. Just walking away explaining I was just too tired would have been more sensible. Today I don’t fell all that much better, though a two hour nap this afternoon after work has put me in a better position that I was in at this time yesterday. This morning, at 5AM, I drove to work in icy cold, pitch black conditions (minus six apparently) and I listened to the 3″ CDr I tried to play last night, and have been playing again this evening- a CD of three pieces by the UK based duo of Samuel Rodgers and Stephen Cornford newly released on their Consumer Waste imprint. Some music really seems suited for early morning drives in the desolate cold…

The disc, which is entitled Zinc (extracts) contains three short pieces that were recorded ont he same day back in April 2009 that the duo recorded their full length disc Turned Moment, Weighting that appeared on Another Timbre, and which I reviewed, with a few small concerns here. The pieces on this new disc suggest they are small extracts taken from the recording sessions that weren’t used on the final album. I must say, that having listened a lot to these shorter tracks the last few days that I much prefer this new, more brief release. My criticism of the full length album was that it all felt a little too pretty, and yet seemed to lack a little substance, relying on droning sounds and extended tonal sections to create atmosphere but not really feeling quite urgent enough. Zinc (extracts) seems to overcome this completely. There are three pieces, the first weighing in at just two and a half minutes, the second a little short of seven and the final, and most impressive piece almost exactly ten.

Throughout the disc, the same basic structures of the full length disc are in place, Cornford using feedback pulled from an exposed old piano frame, and Rodgers providing smaller, incidental, often percussive sounds from his prepared piano. On the first of the three pieces here, it is precisely this arrangement that we hear, with Rodgers really hammering occasional dampened thumps from inside the piano into Cornford’s glowing tones. The track ends as fast as it begins, and maybe that’s why it works so well here, it has an impact that makes you sit up and pay attention rather than sink down and wallow.

The second piece flows straight out of the first thanks to a cute piece of editing, but slows things a little, retaining a similar structure, with Cornford providing a bed for Rodgers’ pointilistic interventions. the real beauty comes in the final track of the disc though, which takes up a little more than half of the running time. Here the beauty is just undeniably captivating, but also the sense of urgency and a real tension comes to the fore. Cornford breaks up his sounds into smaller bursts, some of them very slight, barely audible slithers of tone, but some of them also heavy, burning pulses of feedback that form brief but powerful clouds. Rodgers begins by pounding some huge dramatic notes into these swells, but then suddenly shifts gears, letting just a very gentle scratchy rattle hold an understated place as Cornford slips into restrained mode alongside, allowing just soft tones to float around it. More small percussive sounds, again protesting against their own significance, but this time closer to a microphone and so taking on a different texture in the music again sit in the foreground as Cornford brings heavier tones into play again, still only briefly, until the track trickles to a gorgeous ending as the faintest of scratching and humming slowly dissolves away.

The brevity of these pieces then make them feel like small gems, not all that much happens in each track and so each incident we hear feels more significant, each change in tone feels like it carries weight, each strike at the piano feels important. Maybe its just me adding weight to these sounds, maybe its just the shorter length of the tracks giving this impression, but Zinc (extracts) feels a more significant and powerful work for me than the longer release that came from the same sessions. Lovely stuff, available here in an edition of only 100 copies.

Comments (2)

  • Samuel Rodgers

    November 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Thank you for reviewing this Richard! I thought I would clarify that these recordings were made with two (intact!) grand pianos, Stephen working at one and myself the other. This recording proved quite tricky to edit as the gain levels had been too low, but I was happy with how it turned out. Best wishes, Samuel

  • Richard Pinnell

    November 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks Samuel, and apologies for the incorrect assumptions re instrumentation…

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