CD Reviews

Friday 1st July

July 1, 2011

Today was a long, exhausting and very demanding day for a number of reasons. Julie’s father, who made it home from hospital just a few days ago having first gone in back before Christmas was taken back in today after a few complications. Hopefully he’ll be back out again very soon, but for now things are a bit stressful and although I am going to try and write about a CD tonight I’m sorry if my writing isn’t up to much tonight.

A really lovely and beautifully constructed CD tonight though. A new release on the Creative Sources label, excerpts from anything is the title of a disc by the trio of Matthias Muche, (trombone) Philip Zoubek (prepared piano) and Achim Tang (double bass). While at least two of these names ring a bell with me from somewhere, I don’t think I have heard any music by any of the trio before. It appears that they have a previous release together on Creative Sources, but as my collection of that label isn’t complete (is anyones?!) I haven’t heard their previous offering, though I intend to go and seek it out now. So when the CD went onto the player tonight I didn’t know what to expect, and only had the list of instrumentation, and a particularly beautiful cover image to go by. What I heard was a pleasant surprise.

There are five tracks here, and each of them is different to the others in style and form, but they have been neatly stitched together so that while they remain as separate tracks on the disc there are no gaps between them and they flow seamlessly from one piece to the next. The careful editing here is one of a few elements to this CD that leads me to think that it is at least partly a composed work rather than a completely free improvisation, though certainly it would not have been possible to precisely score any of the material here. The music is exceptionally beautiful. The first piece suddenly blooms from an opening couple of seconds of silence into a series of glowing bold swells formed from (I would guess) eBows on the piano strings, extremely carefully bowed bass notes and some of the softest, attack-free trombone this side of Radu Malfatti. All three musicians play in a similar style, and the track becomes a honeyed mass of swooning tones and golden colours. The piece is ten minutes long, and maintains a similar form throughout, all very graceful, though just when you begin to wonder how long it might continue for without any significant change track two suddenly crashes in without warning.

This second piece couldn’t be any more different. Right from the first explosion that frightens the life out of you when you first hear it, the CD shifts, no- lurches wildly from the slow tones to a barrage of loud, tiny percussive sounds from all three musicians. The sudden shift is clearly a composed decision, perhaps put together in post production but it manages to make me sit bolt upright each time I hear it. This track (the five pieces seem to be unnamed and the sleeve notes don’t even acknowledge that track marks exist) couldn’t be more different to the opening piece. It initially feels like a completely wild free-for-all but it soon becomes clear that the piece retains a sense of textural and colourful compositional integrity despite the fast moving wall of sounds. Everything stays in one tight range of earthy, crunchy dissonance, but gradually, and so slowly that at first you don’t notice it, things gradually ease up and slowly break apart, so when the slow, thoroughly beautiful chiming piano strings, little airy trombone flutters and struck bass notes of the third track appear, completely with plenty of space between each sound, you don’t notice the movement from one track to another. This piece is very beautiful, almost clockwork sounding in its almost mechanically sounding form. I suspect the musicians agreed to play in a certain way, at a certain pace, and while beyond this the decisions made in the moment were probably all improvised the feeling of some kind of composed advance planning is unmistakeable.

The fourth track is signalled when the percussive piano strikes dissolve away and whispery, hissing bowed wooden sounds and huskily breathed trombone emerge. The piano is rubbed and polished with a squeak and a hum, and the brass sounds resemble something between a distant aircraft taking off and the wind roaring through sparse corridors. Gradually the grey finish to the sounds is livened up with drops of shimmering colour as piano strings are vibrated again and the fifth track emerges from the dark like a streak of early morning light as curtains are pulled open. We are returned here to the sustained tones and bowed colours of the opening piece, but with each swell of sound rising in pitch quite extravagantly so as to give the music an uplifting, positive feel in contrast to the tragic beauty of the opening piece.

Excerpts from anything is a really lovely work. That is has come from all acoustic instruments played in at least a semi-improvisational style is remarkable. Great attention has been paid to how the final forty-seven minute work all hangs together though. This is no rough and tumble meeting of musicians but a very carefully considered and conceived work that is very nicely played, exceptionally well arranged and beautifully recorded. Its really great to pick up a CD about which I knew nothing in advance, let it play and find myself thoroughly enchanted with it, particularly on not so easy days like today. Gorgeous stuff not to be missed.

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