"It's difficult not to get a sense of the elegiac, even of ritual, when listening to Mark Wastell's latest offering, a single piece for piano, tam-tam and tubular bell. The work was preconceived as to general structure although the parts were all improvised on the same day, later processed and edited into the final form. For myself, there's a greater sense of "composition" here than improvisation as I tend to hear "Amoungst English Men" as a whole, even though it can be parsed into sections.
The first half is taken up by troubled, brooding notes (and the occasional bell) from the depths of the keyboard, kind of a pared down version of what John Tilbury did on the Cathnor release from earlier this year. There's a stumbling quality in the sense of someone walking down a dark, uneven pathway, too deep in thought to pay attention to his footing. About halfway through, the piano begins to cede space to the tam-tam and, later the tubular bells. The tam-tam is played with a soft touch (probably Wastell's hands) and a fairly regular, fast beat, forming a drone that becomes hugely deep at some points, and its sonic interaction with the bells--the overlapping interference patterns I imagine--creates some breathtakingly beautiful moments. It reminds me a little bit of that gorgeous, early Gavin Bryars recording, "Hommages", on Les Disques du Crepuscule. We reach a pause, then quiet, isolated taps on the tam-tam usher us out, somewhat less troubled than we were on the way in.
This description doesn't by any stretch do justice to how wonderful a piece of music this is. Wastell intended it as a reflection on some recent births and also of deaths of people he knew and loved. He's achieved a somber, deeply thoughtful work that's quite moving, quite beautiful. It fits in quite comfortably with two other recent, profoundly felt works, Olivia Block's "Heave To" and Jason Lescalleet's "The Pilgrim", and holds its own with them. "Heartfelt" is too thin a word, but it's at least that."-Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen
Limited and Numbered Edition of 500
Related Categories of Interest:
lowercase, micro-improv, sound improv
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