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Two live sets of exemplary improvisation: the first revelatory encounter of pianist Sebastian Lexer and drummer/percussionist Steve Noble from 2011, and a more considered and spacious meeting in 2014, both from London's Cafe OTO.

Lexer, Sebastian / Steve Noble
Muddy Ditch

Lexer, Sebastian / Steve Noble: Muddy Ditch (Fataka)

Label: Fataka    
Released in: Great Britain    

"Sebastian Lexer and Steve Noble first played together in the winter of 2011 and what seemed like an unlikely, even oppositional, pairing quickly proved itself to be an extremely well-matched one. Muddy Ditch presents two live sets: their first revelatory encounter and a more considered and spacious meeting in 2014. In both, Noble's sharp vertical hits and Lexer's sustained horizontal textures echo, disrupt and enrich each other, producing music full of complex slants and intricate resonances."-Fataka

"Quietly and with little fanfare, London's Fataka has established itself as a go-to label for lovers of free improv, bringing together as it does some of the most high-profile names on the British and International scenes, usually with remarkable results (Okkyung Lee and John Edwards' White Cable, Black Wires being a particular triumph), and Muddy Ditch is no exception. Whilst the instruments used, piano and drums, are not unusual these days, Sebastian Lexer is no ordinary pianist, and put simply there aren't many drummers like Steve Noble operating in any genre.

Equally at ease in tense quietude as they are in full-on sonic assault, Lexer and Noble make for an exciting pair, unflinching as they are in their desire to trade off one another in the search of fresh and new ways of expressing themselves. As conversations go, Muddy Ditch is a boisterous and unpredictable duologue, but one rich in twists and turns.

Noble has in the past described his view of free improv as being of a "conversation," and that is clearly the case on Muddy Ditch. The improbable effects Lexer draws out of his prepared piano elevate the keyboard instrument to something even more grandiose than one would expect (I know, of a piano), and such scale could have resulted in these two tracks sounding like the miasma evoked by the album's title. Instead, aided by a crystalline production, the sound is limpid and clear, with both artists given ample space to shine and express themselves. Both pieces were recorded live, which makes the quality of both the sound and the performances all the more remarkable. The first, "Pool," begins as many an improv work does, in quiet reflection, Noble sending out a patter of gentle brush strokes as if sounding out his partner. Gradually, the pair start to trade interjections, from scattered rolls on the toms and cymbals from Noble to leaps and bounds up and down the piano's strings and the odd tinkled note on Lexer's part. As the track develops, the two clash and combine to form impressive blocks of sound that make way swiftly to even more arresting periods of silence or quiet manipulation of their instruments. (Having seen him live, I can testify that Noble always brings an array of bells, gongs, bowls and other apparati with him to each gig.) At times it seems the pair might lock into a raucous post-rock groove, but they are smart enough not to lull listeners into any sense of security, quickly pulling back from codified notions of rhythm and form.

Lexer's work on the piano is such an exercise in deconstructing his instrument's known parameters and sound that it's easy to draw parallels with the reductionist school of Rhodri Davies and Axel Dörner, and at times on the second piece, "Loess," it's hard not to imagine that he has crawled into the piano's body to draw out some of these cavernous rumbles and portentous drones. As he builds up a wall of monstrous, wall-shaking sound midway through, Noble kicks in with some Max Roach-like martial drumming and the duo threatens to fly into full-on free jazz before allowing the sounds to recede almost to silence as soon as they seem set to get started. A few minutes later, scraped strings ring out like clarion calls and the piano and drums inner workings are distorted to the point of resembling horns or guitars."-Joseph Burnett

"Steve Noble is London's leading drummer, a fearless and constantly inventive improviser whose super-precise, ultra-propulsive and hyper-detailed playing has galvanized encounters with Derek Bailey, Matthew Shipp, Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, Stephen O'Malley, Joe McPhee, Alex Ward, Rhodri Davies and many, many more.

In the early eighties, Noble played with the Nigerian master drummer Elkan Ogunde, Rip Rig and Panic, Brion Gysin and the Bow Gamelan Ensemble, before going on to work with the pianist Alex Maguire and with Derek Bailey (including Company Weeks 1987, 89 and 90). He was featured in the Bailey's excellent TV series on Improvisation for Channel 4 based on his book 'Improvisation; its nature and practise'. He has toured and performed throughout Europe, Africa and America and currently leads the groups N.E.W (with John Edwards and Alex Ward) and DECOY (with John Edwards and Alexander Hawkins)."

- (Cafe Oto Website)

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
Duo Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
Recent Releases and Best Sellers

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Price: $14.95
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Product Information:

Label: Fataka
Catalog ID: Fataka 13
Squidco Product Code: 21875

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2016
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Cafe Oto, in London, England on October 25th, 2011 and June 18th, 2014 by Giovanni La Rovere.


Sebastian Lexer-piano

Steve Noble-drums, percussion

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Track Listing:

1. Pool 28:07

2. Loess 37:13