CD Reviews

Monday 30th March

March 31, 2009

First of all thank you to everyone that wished me a happy birthday either here or elsewhere. As birthdays go I didn’t have a bad one at all. Cheers

So back to listening to music again today after a bit of a palette cleansing weekend. I played a new release this morning by the UK quartet of Matt Milton, David Thomas, Ryan Jewell and Patrick Farmer, playing violin and objects, viola and bamboo, snare drum and voice and drums and objects respectively. The album, released on Creative Sources is called Bear Ground.

Patrick gave me a copy of the release when I spent a little time with him and his delightful other half Sarah up in Glasgow last weekend. Because I had spent a bit of time in their company, and also because Patrick has a forthcoming release on Cathnor I wanted to put a week or so in between him giving me the CD and me listening to it, to at least try and stay somewhat impartial. It is indeed a very nice little CD though, an itchy, scratchy, breathy, crackly little number.

Of the four musicians on the disc I only really know the music of two of them very well, Farmer and Milton. One real joy of the music though is that I cannot tell who is doing what. Although on occasion its easy to tell strings from a drum (and not as often as you might think) I still couldn’t tell you which of the musicians did what. This isn’t a release that projects forth strong musical voices, rather it showcases the ability of four like minds working together towards one common outcome. I’m not really sure how I am meant to classify the music either. It is all acoustic, and yet rarely are the sounds we hear obviously instrumental. In places it is busy, but in others (like during the charged four minute silence that emerges amidst the final twenty-five minute long third track) the music slips into complete inactivity. I am reminded of the music of Jeph Jerman in improvisational mode, all clicks and scratches and dry whispery sounds as if made with all naturally found objects, as Jerman has been known to do. The sleeve imagery only reinforces this feeling, consisting of a series of Patrick’s natural photography, all leaves and wood and feathers.

Bear Ground is a very restrained, gentle, detailed album. It doesn’t shout and scream at you for your attention, and requires a lot of patience to listen to it carefully enough for it not to slip past virtually unnoticed. Taking the time to listen carefully has its rewards though as immersing yourself in this miniscule soundworld is a rewarding experience. Oh and that silence. It just appears with some eleven minutes remaining in the third track and just stays there for four minutes until a faint crackle, like dried leaves blowing on the wind appears. On other releases the silence might have been edited out, or shortened at least, but here it works well where it is, as if the music was just taking a natural rest to catch its breath, and reaffirming the feeling of honesty that Bear Ground gives me. Maybe not one for everyone, but certainly a release I like a lot.

Comments (5)

  • jkudler

    April 1, 2009 at 1:56 am

    if it matters, ryan jewell is actually a young american guy, from columbus, ohio (same town as mike shiflet and joe panzner and formerly 16-bitch pile-up, sundry others).

  • Richard Pinnell

    April 1, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Aha, thanks Jesse. Wondered why he hadn’t come to my attention before.

  • lukaz

    April 1, 2009 at 10:44 am

    i have been curious about this release and since i don’t find the net release of the quartet that was previously available at Compost And Height website anymore i wonder if it’s the same material on this cd?

  • patrick farmer

    April 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Hulo, thanks the lovely review Richard. Yes Indeed.

    Lukaz, it is indeed the same music that was available previously on the compost site. But I did a lot more mixing and whatnot for the actual cd, what was put up on the site was pretty much all of what we recorded, the cd has less music, for the better if you ask me.

    Thanks again chappy


  • mark

    April 2, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Damn fine discet, if I may be so bold. Would love to hear this group live.

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