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Butcher, John : Invisible Ear (Weight of Wax)

Saxophonist John Butcher in a release of solo and multitrack recordings using close-miking, amplification, room resonance, and feedback saxes, creating unusual & fascinating experiments.

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product information:

UPC: 5051078916927

Label: Weight of Wax
Catalog ID: WoW 03
Squidco Product Code: 12871

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2003
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Cardstock Gatefold Sleeve
Recorded in London, UK in 2002, except "Atelier", recorded in Munster, Germany in 1999. Originally released in 2003 as a numbered, limited edition on the Italian Fringes label.


John Butcher-soprano sax, tenor sax, korg synthesizer, resonant room

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track listing:

1. Swan Style 3:34

2. Cup Anatomical 2:28

3. What Remains 4:32

4. Streamers 8:33

5. A Controversial Fix For.... 2:41

6. ....Shrilling Reed Freakout 1:33

7. The Importance Of Gossip 3:00

8. Dark Field 2:14

9. Bright Field 3:26

10. Magnetic Bottle 3:30

11. Sprinkler 4:32

12. Atelier 4:46

Related Categories of Interest:

John Butcher
Improvised Music
European Improv, Free Jazz & Related
Electro-Acoustic Improv
lowercase, micro-improv, sound improv
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
Free Improvisation
Recordings by or featuring Reed & Wind Players

sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"There may well be no other saxophonist so determinedly pushing his instrument forward, so ruthlessly dispensing with decades of baggage, than John Butcher. This can work both for and against the music that results. In the latter case, there's the risk of performing what turn out to be, essentially, science experiments (not all that surprising considering Butcher's prior career as a professor of physics). But when it works, as I've encountered in live performance and as I think occurs several times on this disc, the outcome can be marvelous in a way that's rarely heard.

This is a solo recording, although three of the tracks utilize overdubbing. Two basic techniques are employed: close miking, wherein the mike is attached directly outside the bell of the instrument, thus enabling it to pick up all manner of sounds including percussive and breath tones with extreme fidelity; and, most impressively, amplified feedback. This involves the mike inside the bell feeding directly to an amp which is then miked for the recording. On tracks like "streamers", Butcher only manipulates the tenor's keys and does so in extraordinarily subtle fashion, generating discreet feedback tones that are utterly beguiling. Listeners would be hard-pressed to identify the source as a saxophone; instead it sounds like some mutant, electronic gamelan. However, as in his best work, the virtuoso technique works as an equal partner with a song structure, abstract though it may be, that glues the piece together into a very satisfying full performance. Other tracks mass several saxes together, with feedback, creating gales of sound, sometimes clearly interacting with the resonance of the room.

On the science-experiment side, there are a few cuts that seem only to scratch the surface of a given technique and leave the piece alone and unsheltered to fend for itself. Some such numbers, like the opening "swan style" are harsh enough to put off all but the most intrepid listener. But anyone at all interested in charting the further evolution of the saxophone should hear this recording for a vivid picture of one extremely strong line of inquiry."-Brian Olewnick, The Squid's Ear, 2003

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