Four extraordinary improvisations by musicians spanning 3 countries and 3 generations, a dark, brooding, swirling music from a remarkably tight and unified ensemble.
Davies / Doneda / Martin / Minton / Patterson
Label: Another Timbre
Released in: Greece/UK
"Midhopestones is a village near Sheffield within which lies a church used by Simon Reynell to record the quintet of Rhodri Davies, Michel Doneda, Louisa Martin, Phil Minton and Lee Patterson in January of this year. The resulting album, just released on Simon's Another Timbre label takes the name of said village as its title. I guess to some degree it was a little inevitable that I would like this album, but trying to describe why that might be is a little harder.
There is a lot of disguise in this recording. Rhodri Davies' harp doesn't sound much like a harp, the same can be said for Michel Doneda's sax. Lee Patterson's use of amplified objects is all about finding hidden sounds where you wouldn't expect them and Phil Minton seems here to be making sounds as far from what we recognise from a human voice as he possibly can, in fact he seems to be trying to hide his input amongst the sounds the others create around him. Perhaps only Louisa Martin's laptop makes sounds as we might expect, but even then were laptop computers primarily designed to make buzzing hissing sounds?
I mention all of this because for me this music is all about a group of musicians working in harmony together, perhaps testing and nudging each other from time to time, but on the whole merging their individual sounds to create a thriving mass of detailed, quite beautiful sound. It doesn't sound like the sum of five different instruments, as maybe an improv record made fifteen years ago might do, but an amorphous mass of indefinable sounds that shifts and moulds itself into a series of interesting shapes. It is as if the instrumentation itself, and the individual histories attached just don't matter, they are all just ingredients that combine to create something else again.
The music is generally slow, and is most often devoid of sudden events, it gradually changes, with sounds slipping in and out of our attention rather than making dramatic entrances. It is a very vertical music, something to be listened into rather than along with, the sounds made interacting with other sounds of the moment rather than what came before or will come after. Like studying a tiny detail of a Pollock painting, any one moment on Midhopestones has its own little world of textures and colours not dissimilar to those found in other places throughout the album but is also individual and fascinating in its own right. Stepping back and viewing / listening to the whole work then reveals how so much layered detail all comes together to form a co-ordinated, very beautiful statement.
The playing on Midhopestones is all very gentle and soft, as if Pollock chose to just work only in grey pencils. Phil Minton's vocals rarely rise above deep gurgling murmurs, and actually for me really make the CD, providing a sprinkling of character to the otherwise delicate structures. It is above all very beautiful, not threatening, not challenging the rules of improvised music, just very finely crafted, delicate and really very beautiful music.
Its late here now, gone 2AM, obviously dark outside and with a room lit only softly this recording adds the perfect soundtrack. Maybe there isn't the same degree of playful creativity as featured on say Rhodri Davies' last AT disc with Annette Krebs, but Midhopestones is up there with Dropp Ensemble's Safety as the most simplistically gorgeous album of the year and sometimes that is more than enough.
I should also mention the mixing /mastering here which is superb. An album like this one needs to be well engineered and very carefully mastered, and Simon has done a fantastic job. While all of the sounds come together as one they can also be clearly picked apart by the ear if you stop and listen closely. There are five more Another Timbre releases sat here waiting for me to get to them. Its about time I really disliked one of them but I haven't found it yet."-Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
At The Squid's Ear!
Related Categories of Interest:
European Improv, Free Jazz & Related
Unusual Vocal Forms
lowercase, micro-improv, sound improv
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London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
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Shipping Weight: 4.00 units
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Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at19
Squidco Product Code: 11899
Packaging: Jewel Tray
Recorded in the Church of St. James the Lesser, Midhopestones Village, Near Sheffield, January 10, 2009.
Michel Doneda-soprano saxophone
Lee Patterson-amplified objects & processes
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