Tonight after work I rushed back to Didcot and attended a stand-up comedy show by Richard Herring at the local arts centre, which was quite enjoyable, but somewhat exhausting. So this evening since getting home I have been winding down, barely moving and have listened four times through to a little 3″ CRr release on the Greek More Mars label named Der Schlaue Fuchs (The Sly Fox) by the duo of Chris Heenan (contrabass clarinet) and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither). The disc contains just seventeen minutes of improvisation selected from recordings made by the duo in Berlin during May 2011. Now I love 3″ discs, as they present us with tight little statements that don’t have long to make an impact, and can then be listened to with a degree of focus that perhaps cannot be applied the same to longer discs. The music here then is a nice little example of how this can work, a fleeting, but solid piece of music that stays around just about long enough to portray something of the character of the two musicians, indeed making us want to hear more, but also existing just as a tight little vignette able to stand alone.
I wasn’t completely sold on Lazaridou-Chatzigoga’s debut solo album last year, hearing it more as a collection of interesting and nicely played sounds rather than as engaging music, but having seen her improvise live a couple of times since then, once in a trio and once solo, I have been very impressed by her ability to react in the moment and improvise in a way I didn’t quite feel present on that CD. Here on this 3″ then I am very pleased to say that the music flows very well indeed. I don’t really know Chris Heenan’s music before this release very well, though I think there has been plenty of it. His use of the bass clarinet as a resonating vessel full of more potential than is usually applied to that particular instrument is very pleasing. He produces deep, vibrating roars and blasts that in places sound nothing like a clarinet but carry such weight and presence that they seem to rattle and shudder around your head. Lazaridou-Chatzigoga works mostly with extended sounds, generally created by vibrating her zither’s strings with eBows, and then applying various objects, many of them metal to the shimmering strings. So as she creates thick, heavy sine-like tones that are interrupted by clattering and buzzing sounds, Heenan blasts his brittle attacks around them, so creating a music that is dense and continuous, but gradually builds in intensity and volume at around the thirteen minute mark before just as slowly dismantling itself again in just as gradual a manner. The music isn’t ever really what you could call a drone, as so much come sand goes and shifts back and forth throughout, but there is a thickness and sense of continuity throughout that leans that way. The real pleasure with this piece is listening down through its various layers and picking out the various small events resonating within the greater whole and how they all work together for the greater good. This is a nice little disc then of some nicely played, grittily attractive music, all wrapped up in a nicely designed, well put together little package. Well worth your attention.