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Ward, Alex: Gated (Discus)

A stunning solo album showing the widely diverse interests of UK clarinetist and guitarist Alex Ward, recording in the studio in 10 multi-track pieces using clarinets, saxophones, guitars, keyboards, electric bass and assorted software instruments in a mix of pre-composed and improvised approaches, burning the spectrum from contemplative to aggressively assertive performance.

Price: $14.95


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product information:

UPC: 5051078988320

Label: Discus
Catalog ID: 114CD
Squidco Product Code: 31121

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Recorded at Stowaway Studios, between July, 2020, and March, 2021, by the artist.


Alex Ward-composer, performer, clarinet, saxophone, guitar, keyboard, electric bass, software instruments

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Artist Biographies:

"Alex Ward was born in 1974. He is a composer, improviser, and performing musician. His primary instruments are clarinet and guitar, and he has also performed in public and on recordings on alto sax, piano/keyboards, bass guitar, and as a vocalist. He was based in Oxford from 1992-2000, and since then has lived in London.

His involvement in freely improvised music dates back to 1986, when he met the guitarist Derek Bailey. As an improviser, he was initially principally a clarinettist (sometimes also playing alto sax), but since 2000 he has also been active as an improvising guitarist. On both instruments, hIs longest-standing collaborations in this field have been with the drummer Steve Noble.

From 1993 to 2001, most of his activity as a composer took place in collaboration with Benjamin Hervé, mainly in the context of the rock band Camp Blackfoot. From 2002-2005, his writing was mostly done solo, and was primarily focused on songs. Since 2006, he has been heavily involved in both solo and collaborative composition, predominantly (though not exclusively) of instrumental music. Much of his writing and performing during this time has been done with Dead Days Beyond Help, a duo with drummer Jem Doulton. He also currently leads a number of bands including Predicate, Forebrace, The Alex Ward Quintet/Sextet, and Alex Ward & The Dead Ends.

He has been a member of many other groups including ensembles led by Eugene Chadbourne, Simon H. Fell and Duck Baker, and has also done various work as a session musician and in collaboration with other media. Since 2005, he has co-run the label Copepod Records with composer/performer Luke Barlow. He does the recording, mixing and/or mastering of most of his own music, and for many of the groups he plays in." (

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track listing:

1. Heat Patch 2:05

2. The Celebrated Retriction 3:26

3. Let 6:28

4. Buyout 5:23

5. Hewn 18:23

6. Stilled 5:20

7. Cushioned 14:39

8. Brow 4:29

9. The Bradford Factor 2:50

10. Maybe It'll Break The Heat 10:40
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Conceived and realised over an 8-month period of intense solitary work, "Gated" is Alex Ward's most ambitious musical statement to date. The ten pieces employ all of Alex's instrumental resources as a performer, featuring clarinets, saxophones, guitars, keyboards, electric bass and assorted software instruments; and furthermore they draw on everything he has learned during his three-decades-plus of activity as a free improviser, composer/bandleader and sideman. The result is a dense and multi-layered array of detailed compositional structures, headlong improvisational flights and deft studio manipulation."-Discus

"Another sonic adventure from Discus finds Alex Ward's abilities on the various instruments used here being stretched to their limits. He plays everything here, and that covers guitar, bass, drums, woodwind, keyboards and various dizzying noisemakers. Not only is it an instrumental tour de force, but the musical styles that the album encompasses are varied in the extreme, bursting through: free jazz, metal, math rock and ambient drone, often with them all in one piece.

Gated is a fairly breathless listen with little opportunity for respite, and I find myself trying to picture the process of Alex recording the pieces section by section, playing over himself, over and over, pushing ever further as the tempo increases and the solos spiral out of control, speakers rattling. Spread across ten tracks, the shortest of which is two minutes, the longest eighteen, you don't really know what to expect apart from a sensory overload. I am reminded of Jesus Lizard in places, but to some unexpected extreme; and then you may find yourself tripping down a psychedelic woodwind blowout next. It is quite something.

The two-minute opener "Heat Patch" is the ultimate jerk out of complacency; the woodwind flutters like a crazed moth as the drums push and parry, the guitar a brief explosion. It feels like a supremely compressed box full of elastic bands just waiting to burst or somebody gritting their teeth until they crack. It is that sort of intensity. The bass playing throughout is clean and concise, but twists and turns, trying to lose the drums that at times come on like a machine gun. Just when you think you might have the measure, a track like "Let" appears with its slightly atonal horns. It is soft-ish and a little hesitant in its atmosphere, the drums mellow and the cymbal wash surprisingly welcoming.

There is a little metal in the ingredients on the album, with the staccato drumming of "Buyout" definitely of the speed variety; they have the power of a waterfall, and with the churning bass and eccentric guitar, there is no space whatsoever to even breathe, each second stuffed with sound. There is a little more room on "Hewn", but then it is just over eighteen minutes long. The shimmer of the cymbals is deeply affecting here, but it is impossible to relax because you just don't know what will happen next. One abstract section of industrial noise reminded me of a particular Don Caballero track, the one where it feels as if you have inadvertently wandered into a sawmill.

I think there are some vibes on "Stilled" and they hang in the air, circling ever higher, just out of reach, as if picking the right moment to swoop; while "Cushioned" is a free combo of cheery piano and clarinet. It is full and vibrant, and even has a touch of Hammond, which adds some drama, and the whole piece is exhilarating and desperate in equal measure. It is part of the joy of the album, seeing what instruments will be gathered together on each track. Alex also loves that sense of hypnotic repetition that comes from hammering a single chord and not relenting, as if trying to overload the listener or see how much they can take. It reminds me a little of that Human Impact album that was released recently, but with so many more tributaries flowing into the raging torrent.

Gated is one of those records that gives up so much more every time you listen and that special feeling never grows old. You kind of have to take a deep breath and force yourself to relax once the album ends; and we all need that once in a while."-Mr Olivetti, FREQ

Get additional information at FREQ
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Compositional Forms
Organized Sound and Sample Based Music
Electroacoustic Composition
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Solo Artist Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Rock Forms
New in Experimental & Electronic Music

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