Sunday 19th JuneJune 19, 2011
So the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that things look a little different here again as today I managed to get the new design launched here following the hassles of the last week or so. Its not completely finished and there are still quite a few things needing tweaking, but the bulk of things are in place and, I think, all working. I’ve dropped a few things from the previous design. The featured post section is gone, but then I don’t think anyone will miss it and I didn’t ever update it anyway. I’ve removed the concert calendar as well for similar reasons, I didn’t have the time to keep it relevant. I’m pleased to see though that a similar, but better maintained calendar has been launched here anyway so that’s great. If anyone still wishes to send me links to concerts then please do and I’ll drop in at the end of posts from time to time. The new design then has a few new bits and pieces, some better archiving functions, buttons to post things straight to facebook or twitter, an easy to use direct contact form and some other stuff, but the main benefit of this new design is that it uses very stable, up to date and upgradable coding, which the last design certainly did not. Lessons learned there. I hope this look is well received, I’ve tried to keep it simple and easy on the eye. Feedback would be great.
So, last night I went into London, to CafÃ© Oto for the first time in a month or two to catch the first of a two night residency by the German trumpeter extraordinaire Axel Dorner. He played two sets, the first of which was a duo with the violinist Angharad Davies, whose excellent AD album I wrote about here. Unusually, Angharad chose last night to amplify her violin, with Dorner also choosing to work with some simple effects. As it turned out this was a very wise move, as next door a late night party, complete with bad music was held on the roof, so the sound of the bass thud permeated the set from start to finish. Both Davies and Dorner actually utilise rhythmic elements in their music, with Dorner’s natural breathing patterns dictating this in his playing, and Davies often using clockwork-like rotational bow techniques across the strings. Throughout their set the dull pulse of the music from upstairs crossed over the patterns the two musicians worked with, never coming together but giving a strange additional element to the music.
The music the duo played wasn’t particularly quiet, and in fact on occasions got very loud indeed when volume pedals were depressed, but still the set felt full of space and clarity, with each sound carefully placed and easy to pick out from the others around it. This feeling of simplicity really made the set, with each musician producing some wonderfully textured sounds, but the real strength of the music came from how they were placed, in little blocks rather than sprayed all over the place, with a strong compositional integrity flowing through the performance. Davies worked with her usual array of clips and preparations attached to the strings, so it was easy to follow the relationship between technique and sounds produced, but Â Dorner, whose incredible palette of sounds is unlike that of any other trumpeter I’ve heard seems to produce incredible textures, seemingly on a whim without any clues to how he is making them. The set yesterday evening was a pleasure not only because of the instant compositional skills of the duo but also because of the technical abilities of these two experienced, highly skilled musicians.
The set came to a close with a stunning moment. As Davies flicked at her preparation adorned strings quietly and slowly, Dorner held a single, soft rumble, (It would be wrong to call it a note) playing with one hand, the other slowly turning a dial on his mixer that brought a cloud of feedback slowly up behind everything, eventually being allowed to decay away some time after all of theother sounds had stopped. This moment was simple, natural and incredibly beautiful, and it summed up the set as a whole.
Because I had a train to catch, I knew I would have to leave before the final set finished, so I made my way to a standing position near to the door to hear the first half an hour of the second set, a trip performance of Dorner, Steve Beresford (electronics) and John Edwards (bass). This set was meant to be a quartet with John Butcher also playing, but illness meant that he had to drop out, which was a real shame as Butcher’s close, but separate musical relationships with both Edwards and Dorner may well have pulled everything together nicely, besides the fact that his sax is a welcome addition to just about every group. As it was, my position standing at the back, keeping one eye on the time spoilt my concentration a great deal, and I struggled to connect with this set. I havenever been the biggest fan of Steve Beresford’s electronics sound, and here again his choice of bubbly, gloopy, vaguely synth-esque sounds didn’t work so well for me. In the first minutes of the set he played in a restrained manner, and left the others, and Edwards in particular to provide the set with any drama and drive, but later when Beresford began to play more, despite not being Â a fan of his actual sounds he drew the other two out more, forcing them to play in and around his contributions more, and bringing a greater cohesiveness to the set. Dorner and Edwards, both fantastic improvisers needed little more encouragement, and when I had to leave the set had built into a flowing, muscular set that was a shame to leave. Somebody has already posted a film of some of this set here, I listened carefully to the film but couldn’t hear the door closing behind me at any point…