There are albums, particularly in the improvisational genre, where one is hesitant to attempt an analysis of what is going on beyond the level of the material description. When that happens, a reviewer can almost feel as a foreign body in a ritual that is just for members of a restricted circle. And John somehow fits inside this category of release, especially after learning that the live document — recorded at London's Hundred Years Gallery in January 2022 — was additionally improved by Ritchie Stevens, son of the dedicatee John, lending Mark Wastell two cymbals, and by the presence of the aforementioned's daughter Loo (cum grandson) during the concerts.
The pair frequently push the boundaries of what is perceivable by contrasting tiny phonemes created by Maggie Nicols' fragmentation of her own larynx with Wastell's dispersed percussion, acting as a responsive counterpoint with no predetermined patterns. The vocalist, as always, conveys the full spectrum of emotion. Anxiety, bird-ish chattiness, snippets of singable serenity, and the utterly human unsureness of self-expression are often followed by liberating cries that, on the contrary, express everything — including the seemingly unspeakable. All of the above was part of John Stevens' teachings, and Nicols is never afraid to repeat.
For this listener the longest track, "Such A Beautiful Place" — featuring extended stretches of pure trance — comprises the most gratifying portions, with wonderful marriages of vocals and gong (incidentally, if you're feeling under the weather right now, go listen to Wastell's "Vibra" series for solo tam tam). The space's reverberation, which at other times seems to envelop the duo's improvised microorganisms, serves as a third instrument in this instance, enhancing the inner meaning-filled halo surrounding the music. The record ends exactly like this, giving us the opportunity to look within once again, trying to find in ourselves the abilities to react to adversity, and generate rational and creative energy anew.
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