Saturday 9th JulyJuly 10, 2011
Its very late, so I will keep this evening’s review brief. In some ways that will be relatively easy as I don’t have a huge amount to say about tonight’s release (though what I have to say is generally good) but there is one very interesting thing to note about this CD.
The disc in question is one of a recent clutch of new releases on the Swedish guitarist Christian Munthe’s own For Sake label, a duo with the New Zealand based percussionist Lee Noyes called Onliners. Now, if I knew nothing about these musicians at all, I would probably be writing here how this is a very nice little disc of spiky, jittery acoustic guitar/minimal percussion improvisations that sit in the Bailey/Stevens lineage very well and are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to for their lightness, clarity and great conversational narrative. All of these things do apply, and I have enjoyed listening to this disc, but one thing hit me when I was halfway through my first listen. Munthe lives in Sweden, Noyes in New Zealand, and to the best of my knowledge neither visited each other’s country in 2009 when this was recorded. The liner notes in fact state that the pieces were “created and performed” by Munthe and Noyes and that they were recorded in both Gothenberg, Sweden, and Dunedin, New Zealand in the same year. So, these recordings, which sound like thoroughly fluid, sprightly little musical discussions were put together at a distance, as the title of the album suggests; online.
In recent years this kind of distance-based joint composition has increased considerably as complex file sharing has become so much quicker and easier, and Noyes in particular has been involved in a number of them, so perhaps it should be no surprise that this is the case here, but really these recordings do not sound like online collaborations. They sound very much in the moment, raw improvisations. I begin to question myself here though and my sense of listening- as most of the recordings made this way that I have heard have been computer/collage styled compositions, do I automatically cast aside the possibility of this being a disc made online simply because it is just acoustic instrumentation used here? Do I just assume this recording was made by two musicians together in a room because you don’t plug in any of the instrumentation?
Onliners is very cleverly made. It really does sound thoroughly natural and expressive. I can only assume that the pieces were made when one of the duo recorded solo and the other added their part playing live alongside the recording somehow, with Munthe and Noyes perhaps taking it in turns to take the lead part over the six tracks here. Listening carefully I have tried to figure out which of the musicians might have supplied the first recording across the album, but it really isn’t easy. The percussion definitely seems to be predominant on IN, the fourth track here, but overall its hard to tell, which can only serve as a compliment to the pair.
Onliners is good then, but made all the better when you see it in light of how I suspect it may have been made. I really wouldn’t have said a CD like this could have been convincingly possible made this way, so either I have got his very wrong, and this review is a complete waste of time, or what I thought couldn’t really be done has been done very impressively. I’m very interested to find out now how the CD was really made. In the meantime this is a nice album indeed. Think John Russell meets Roger Turner with both in an airy, if spiky mood.