Saturday 5th FebruaryFebruary 6, 2011
For those of you interested in the daily updates on how my cold is progressing, it has begun to subside enough for us to go out in public without passing aircraft mistaking my nose for a landing light, so we went and ate this evening at a new Szechuan restaurant in Oxford that might just be the most authentic Chinese place I have eaten it yet. Judging by the fact that we seemed to be the only non-Chinese diners in the whole building that may be an accurate description of the place. We had an incredible meal anyway. As tonight I am writing about a free download which doesn’t really have a cover image to share, I have substituted a photo I took of my dinner tonight…
So I have chosen to write about two separate free downloads this evening, both available from the really rather wonderful Compost and Height netlabel. More about those in a moment, but first a mention for something that I will immediately admit to having a vested interest in- the first issue of Compost and Height’s pdf publication Wolf Notes. This freely downloadable journal has been in the works for several months now, and attempts to fill a gap in music writing away from CD reviews. I have a piece of writing in this first issue, a fact I am very proud of, though once placed beside the other exceptionally well written articles in there my writing pales in comparison. So maybe download the publication, skim through my words as a kind of light warm-up for the better stuff that follows and enjoy this lovely, freely shared project. Grab it here.
So the first of the two pieces I have listened to from the C&H site is also the first of a possible series of live recordings recorded in Slovenia as part of the Radio Student series of live broadcasts that are linked to the veritable good egg that is Luka Zagoricnik. Its a twenty-six minute long, nicely recorded live set from the trio of French ‘rotating surfaces’ player Pascal Battus, Japanese percussionist Seijiro Murayama and Slovenia’s own double bassist TomaÅ¾ Grom. This is a really well balanced trio that make quiet, airy music that feels like tightly wound clockwork slowly unravelling itself in a release of tension. While each of the musicians does have a distinctive voice to be heard in different places, its actually often hard at other times to tell who is making what sound here. Murayama sounds the most obvious, as his very simple and yet highly affecting snare drum patterns are familiar to my ears, Often though, Battus’ sounds, which are made using small rotating parts that I think used to be motors for portable tape players are mistaken for Grom’s as such is the restrained nature of the Slovenian’s playing.
The music then is mostly quite spacious and understated, reminding me of small pencil drawings spread across a wide, blank canvas, not too much white space between each event, and many of them crossing over each other, but also none so dense as to detract from the overall sensation of space.So there are small clicks and whirrs, growls, pattering and steady, distantly quiet little rhythms slowed right down. While in many ways a tense, nervous piece it also feels remarkably controlled and wonderfully balanced, as if the musicians had all played together often before, which wasn’t entirely the case. If your taste in improv leans towards the quietly angular then go and grab this one from here.
The other piece I have been listening to is a solo recording by Dominic Lash, the Oxford, soon to be New York-based double bassist who already has a couple of other solo works available from C&H. This time though, in what I think is a unique departure for Dom, he puts the bass aside and composes a twelve minute work from field recordings he made while spending time in upstate New York last year. Ledig Lullaby then consists of what are (I think) layered recordings of countryside sites, as we hear cicadas, frogs and birds and assorted other minuscule creatures purring and croaking away together so as to create a seething mass of sound that is somehow incredibly busy and excited at the same time as being very calm and relaxing. Distant traffic and the hum of overflying aircraft can also be heard. Lash’s work on the recording is very subtle. There are no obvious digital pyrotechnics, no sudden cuts, no overpowering overdubs. The sounds all drift past, chattering madly and yet never really threatening to build into anything that doesn’t sound natural. It only lasts twelve minutes, and while it is nicely made by a careful hand it may never be more than a nice little track destined to be played a few times and then forgotten. I’d actually quite like to have heard Dom play bass over and into these recordings, their subdued nature perhaps might have been a nice bed for slow, low bowed lines. If field recordings and their subsequent arrangement are your thing though then don’t miss out on this one.
I hope to get to several more of the Compost and Height offerings over forthcoming weeks. I have been neglecting downloads recently in an attempt to clear the CD piles, but I will try and rectify this in the coming days.