CD Reviews, Download Reviews

Monday 23rd January

January 24, 2012

Tonight, one of a few recordings I hop[e to write about this week that are available free of charge as downloads. I don’t write about music distributed in such a way anywhere near often enough, simply because I forget about such releases far too easily, but I made a point one evening last week of taking a few recent downloads and burning them to CDs so that the physical objects are there to remind me to listen to them. Having to do this is of course a quite silly thing to have to do in this day and age, but as senility begins to set in I need all the help i can get. I actually didn’t have to do this with tonight’s release anyway, as the musician responsible was kind enough to send me a CDr of the work in the first place. The recording though, named Overlapping Gestures by the American (I think Virginian) based cellist Gary Rouzer is available for free, via Bandcamp here.

Overlapping Gestures is a set of three solo works for bass cello, amplified objects and field recordings. the first, named One Long, is fittingly the longest track here, clocking in at a little more than fourteen minutes, with the subsequent One Short and the final One More lasting four and six minutes respectively. I am not 100% certain about how the three pieces were put together. I think, but am far from sure, that they consist of a pre-composed collage of field recordings, into which the rattling of small, mechanical sounding objects and live cello have been added. Its possible that everything here was recorded in one take together, but i suspect not.

However it was made, I rather like the music here. There is a very individual voice to it that, while very simple in execution and structure actually doesn’t sound much else like anyone else, perhaps because of the choice of sounds used and how they are combined. Rouzer’s cello playing ranges between short, stabbing abrasive sounds that verge on percussion to melodically played “proper” notes to Wastell-esque dry scrapes to small plucked string notes. While there is quite a range of sounds used they are mostly quite understated, never really played with any sense of bombast, and generally one choice of sound is used, explored for a little while and then moved on from. The field recordings and amplified objects are more difficult to define. There are some industrial, mechanical sounding material in there, and plenty of small rattling, clattering sounds. Its hard to tell where the field recordings stop and the live contributions begin. This is mostly because the field recordings are primarily not of the background ambience category, and tend to provide a more direct contribution to the music rather than just existing as a colour wash over a blank canvas to then be drawn over. The interplay between cello and other sounds is very upfront and forms the key part of the music in a very direct way. Both instrumental, recorded and percussive sounds here all seem to retain a similar importance within the music. There is plenty of variety in the field recordings used, with bits of people’s distant conversations and dribbling water sounds about the most commonly heard elements here, and odd metallic chiming and weird squelchy spluttering the most unusual, and it is this variety, coupled with some very nice uses of the cello to find ways to combine with such recordings that makes this disc work well for me. Everything keeps you engaged, as it continually shifts and progresses to a new set of sounds every minute or so and with each shift comes something new. Overlapping Gestures might be a bit of a dull title for an album, but it describes the way the music works here well.

This is good stuff then, clearly the result of quite a lot of thinking and personal musical evolution to arrive at this point. it is always a real joy to be able to put on a CD by a musician whose work you are unfamiliar with and find yourself playing it several times in succession, and that is what I have found myself doing here. Go grab it.


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