CD Reviews

Sunday 12th April

April 12, 2009

Although I have said here before that I always prefer when it is possible to buy CDs directly from a musician or label, one thing I have missed over recent months is a semi-regular trip to the Sound323 record shop to browse through shelves and find things that perhaps you didn’t think you were looking for. It was so nice to do this yesterday, and returning home with a bag containing four or five new discs brought back nice memories as I sat on the train looking through them, reading liner notes etc… Whenever I have done this in the past I have always felt the urge to listen to one or all of them as soon as I get home, and so today a couple of the new discs jumped their way up the queue here and I gave them a spin.

The first of the two was the new Live at Café Oto release by Oceans of Silver and Blood, the duo of Mark Wastell and Joachim Nordwall. Once again I find myself talking about a CD release of a concert I attended. My informal write-up of the gig in question is here. For once the disc sounds very close to my memory of the performance however, a rich, layered mesh of droning sound leaning towards the lower end of the scale that hangs together in a somewhat fragile manner. In many ways there can be detected some of the dynamics and stimuli present in modern noise music in what Oceans of Silver and Blood are doing. Indeed Nordwall has a partial background in this area, and both musicians took part in a very noisy conclusion to the Eight Hour Drone People concert I saw at Oto last winter, alongside the likes of Lasse Marhaug, thirty minutes of music that I found completely unlistenable.

So why do I like the OoSaB disc? Well although there is the feeling of slowly building, droning sounds growing into a crescendo their music is actually not that overwhelmingly loud, so there is no fear of physical damage as you sit and listen, and no worry about the PA system being unable to handle the musician’s output and thus change what we are hearing. So this CD, and the gig in question take some of the elements I enjoy from noise music, the shifting layers, the detail coming through from underneath a heavy drone, the negative spaces found when elements drop away, the use of deep, layered sound to highlight other smaller elements, such as Wastell’s occasional dramatic scrapes at the surface of his tam tam. In the case of this particular CD I weirdly found myself listening through the drones to pick out the particles of audience noise that remain on the recording. The disc is as “live” a recording as can be, beginning with the chatter of the room, that very slowly dissipates as the musicians start to play, ending with the round of applause and complete with creaking chairs and the rattle of the bar throughout. For some odd reason, (maybe because some of the noises might have come from myself and Julie? maybe just because I feel a close affinity with Café Oto right now?) I really enjoyed listening to the room as a whole on this disc. Musically I think I still prefer the Ideal Recordings disc I mentioned a few days back, but if (as it seems) copies of that one are running low then this will serve perfectly well as a good replacement, and if this end of Mark Wastell’s music is your bag anyway then its an essential purchase.

The other disc I played today is a new release of a six year old recording by Derek Bailey, Tony Bevan, Paul Hession and Otomo Yoshihide. Good Cop Bad Cop (such a great title!) was recorded in Liverpool at a concert organised by the Frakture people. I have mixed feelings about this disc (yeah maybe it should be called Good CD Bad CD!) but tonight, sat back in my leather office chair, with a large single malt in one hand and something to eat in the other I had a whale of time with this music. Even if in places it strayed a little outside of my usual tastes it also has a good few moments of real beauty and I think the passages I enjoyed the more were oddly improved by the process of getting to them as the entire disc has the ability to pick up the listener and pull them along on a journey.

I should say what it sounds like. There are five tracks, and the full quartet only actually appear on two of them. The middle three are all duos, and two of these, pairing percussionist Hession with first Derek Bailey and then Otomo Yoshihide are both really great, intimate tracks founded on a very basic premise of musical conversation. the Bailey/Hession track is a nice jaunty little piece with the two musicians seeming to be playing at different paces to each other, but still somehow linking up their gestures, and in several places the music drops away into quiet little passages that I like a lot. The Hession/Yoshihide track is a joy, combining Otomo in feedback guitar mode with Hession’s frantic rolling drums, but as with the Bailey piece pulling back often to allow the beauty of Otomo’s dying notes to take the foreground. After a few minutes of this Otomo can be heard somehow coaxing a gamelanesque rhythmic pattern from is instrument underpinned by a growing single tone, which he leaves hanging as Hession sprays wild patterns over the top until the tone drops away on its own to end the piece. A lovely little gem.

Where I feel less comfortable with the music are the parts in which Bevan really lets rip with the saxophone. His duo with Bailey (the fourth and title track) is not too bad as he keeps things reined in to some degree, but on the two quartet pieces he does tend to override proceedings a little too much for my liking, filling every available space. The opening track is actually divided into two, as it seems that after a while two of the quartet stopped playing and only Yoshihide and Bevan continued. So the first ten minutes or so sees the group, with Bevan to the fore really letting rip, but the last section, with Yoshihide letting quiet ripples of dirty sound tremble from his turntables brings Bevan down a couple of notches and this part is very nice indeed. This opening split track is called, quite fittingly No Hiding Place / Softly Softly, and the references to British police TV shows are there through all of the tracks, with two of them amusingly named Morse and The Bill.

So yeah a mixed bag but always a bundle of fun. Really nice to listen to another disc of uncovered Bailey as well soon after the re-release of the great Lot’74 solo album.

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