CD Reviews

Wednesday 11th August

August 11, 2011

I’m not going to bore everyone with self-obsessed updates on my health today. Suffice to say I’m improving rapidly and am well enough to return to a decent listening schedule, even though I’ve given and in and got out the CD Player’s remote control for a few days to stop me having to keep getting up to press play. I hate remote controls. Grumble grumble…

So tonight a CD that I have been looking forward to hearing for quite some time, the second trio release by Tierce, the group made up of Ivan Palacky, (amplified knitting machine) Daniel Jones (turntable and electronics) and Jez riley French (field recordings and no end of other stuff). The album is yet another release in the new batch from Another Timbre and is named Caisson. To get the inevitable caveats out of the way, while I haven’t actually heard this music before I know a couple of the musicians well, one of them very well, and only my own technical and organisational incompetence kept me from hearing a rough version a while back. As ever though, my thoughts on the music remain, in my opinion, as objective as can be. I think I’m going to write that paragraph up as a separate page and just link to it from time to time 😉

The first thing that hits you about Caisson is how bright and clear everything is. I’m not sure how much tweaking was done at the mastering stage, but this is the loudest I ever heard Daniel Jones’ output before, and everything sounds very crisp and crunchy. Often I hate this kind of thing, but here the tweaks on the EQ (I’m guessing) do bring everything nicely in to the foreground, though at the same time separating the three sets of sounds quite clearly rather than letting them merge together. On the whole we hear vaguely metallic bumps and thuds and whirring percussion from Palacky, little stabs of fizzing and sparking gritty electronics from Jones and field recordings (birdsong, traffic,  the usual) from French though his list of instrumentation also suggests he added various other acoustic elements as well.

In some ways this is your everyday modern improvised trio, sometimes blending sounds together, sometimes setting them against each other as jarring shifts in dynamic. There are loud, collective clouds of noisier parts where things boil up into near angry chaos, but also plenty of parts where it all slides apart into near enough silence. What sets this apart from a lot of recent improv however is the way the field recordings are used. They are not disguised, and often sit clearly as part of the music for some time. At around the half hour mark (the entire disc, recorded live clocks in at about an hour) a lengthy recording of a city can be heard, full of traffic, crowd noises, passing trains, the footsteps of whoever (presumably Jez) is making the recording. This field recording at one point dominates everything, For a while there is a nice rhythmic exchange between Palacky and some buzzing distortion from Jones but soon after they seem to give in and just let the recording go about its way, only picking things up again later after French’s cinematic yet overlong contribution ended with the thud of a closed door. When this section passes though, a really lovely section consisting of a sustained sine tone and some deep rumbling metal is very lovely, only really losing impact as its volume rises a little too high and the subtlety is lost a bit.

Caisson moves through all kinds of section then, almost like several separate tracks pulled together into one live set. Its hard to know if any editing took place but if not the way the various elements slide into one another is really quite confidently and adeptly done. The passage that can be heard from around the forty minute mark onwards, looming, dark clouds of something undercut by insistent piecing tones and odd little bleeps and bloops is really very nice indeed. If field recordings are used in this part then they work better here than anywhere, perhaps as they are impossible to identify and so become part of the abstract pieces of the puzzle rather than just a bed for the other sounds to lay over the top of. A more obvious recording then appears for the closing few minutes, some kind of vaguely industrial sounding space complete with large objects banging softly and a brief whistle from someone. Here again though Jones and Palacky drop away to let this audio picture dominate the closing section when I would probably have preferred them to confront it head on, taking it as just another sound element to react to rather than allow its narrative to take the lead.

Still, tiny quibbles aside, this is a lovely album. The music is understated, with Palacky and Jones in particular finding very nice ways to work together as French seems to drive the shape and structure of the music. Its a significant step on from the brief 3″ disc the trio released a few years back, more nicely recorded with better production values and much more space to stretch out and breathe. I suspect that given the multitrack files I might personally have chosen to mix the disc a little differently but that’s just a matter of taste. A very nice release indeed.

Comment (1)

  • JrF

    August 20, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I don’t know if its worth mentioning any of this but there aren’t any multitrack files – the recording was a stereo take recorded ‘live’ – as in that I was recording the live sound as part of my part of the trios music. No mixing or editing other than topping / tailing & the removal of 1 second of feedback was done. This matters only because, if one choses to listen to the disc whilst considering how the music was made, it is, simply, a recording of three friends talking to each other amidst projected footage – at times this conversation is allowed to lapse as a single element creates space within the performance space – space for the footage to draw the eye.

    tierce will play 2 concerts in Prague & Brno later this year – a chance for us to stretch out & to find something other in our conversations – or at least have fun playing music together.

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