CD Reviews

Wednesday 7th December

December 7, 2011

This may sound like a daft thing for me to say, given what I do and write here every night, but I am really enjoying music at the moment. I never really stop enjoying it of course, but from time to time the energies wane a little. Right now though, as we enter a ridiculously tough time of the year for me professionally, the musical batteries are fully charged. Today I was off of work, and while many things didn’t go right today I enjoyed the time I was able to spend listening to music a great deal. Not important I mention this I guess, but this is a blog, I guess to some degree its about me and I felt the need to share that with you!

Anyway, the music I have been listening to tonight I should admit to having had a connection with for quite some time. Newly released on the beautifully packaged Consumer Waste label, What’s that for mate? is an album of two pieces of music by the young British duo of Jack Harris (laptop on this disc) and Samuel Rodgers (electronics on this occasion) that were recorded back in March 2010. The music was sent to me as a demo way over a year ago, and liking it a lot I even offered to put it up online at this website should they not find a physical label willing and able to release it. The good news is that it has found a home on Consumer Waste, which pleases me a great deal. Harris and Rodgers have worked on and off for a couple of years now, with the two pieces here actually being quite early works. The first piece is named (no idea why) This is a Christmas poem y’know, and is a work that plays extremes off against each other. Much of the early part of the disc is virtually silent. Just the faintest of crackles can be heard, sometimes only when your ear is placed next to the speaker, but gradually this near silence is interrupted by little bursts of dirty electronic distortion that suddenly stab across the music. Slowly these become more vicious, and more frequent, and after a while both musicians trade little bits of white noise and feedback with nothing staying around too long, things suddenly cutting away, and plenty of negative space left in the piece to frame the musicians’ contributions. The feeling thorough the almost half hour long track is constantly one of uncertainty and fragility. When everything recedes and only a thin, whispery line of feedback may remain the sensation we are left with is one of imminent disruption, and we are rarely disappointed, though never does the music slip into any kind of obvious pattern. In its dying minutes, as we think the track may be ending, the softly pattering textures are still frequently ripped apart by sudden shrieks of loud electronic distortion.

The juxtapositions of loud and quiet, long and sudden form the basic structure of the second piece as well, the even more curiously named and I’m the toilet seat of a woman. Here though the twenty one minute track begins quite differently. We hear a field recording slowly emerge at the opening of the piece, a murky capture of some kind of social gathering, maybe a party, and after a few seconds of disembodied, half distant voices it becomes clear that Robbie Williams’ anthem for the tasteless masses Angels can be heard somewhere. This all then halts abruptly and a quiet, soft electronic tone slips into earshot, holding some minuscule metallic clicking in place for a fee seconds before cutting out again and a further field recording, of a young girl calling out the letters of an alphabet can be heard for a brief moment. So the track goes for a while, with these seemingly disconnected spaces coming and going until the track settles into an interplay of electronic buzzes and clicks, much softer than the first track’s abrasions, but still with that undercurrent of pregnant tension. This instrumental (for want of a better word) section forms the centrepiece of the track, and is the most developed and musical part of the CD. It is hard to tell who is making which sounds but a sense of interaction is clear in this portion of the album rather than the disconnected juxtapositions elsewhere. Late in the piece then, a young female voice appears, seemingly reciting a text of some kind. I am reminded of Alice in Wonderland for some reason, though I can’t quite follow what she is reading.

Despite my efforts here, What’s that for mate? isn’t really served well by trying to describe it section by section. In many ways what we hear is thoroughly common in today’s modern improvisation, but there is something about the way this album is structured, the particular choice of field recordings, (there is a real Englishness about them though ask me to explain such a pronouncement and I probably couldn’t) and the way everything reacts to everything else in a very simple, elemental way that makes this album work for me. A fine early recording by two of the most interesting young musicians the UK has to offer right now then. The CD and its letterpress sleeve also look stunning, as do the other two new releases on the Consumer waste label. Check them out here.

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