Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre

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at26         crepuscular rays

Håvard Volden  12-string guitar & objects

Toshimaru Nakamura   no-input mixing board

1.  Scattering         21:41

2.  Perception        22:46

                  TT:   44:19

recorded in Oslo & Trondheim, November 2008

youtube extract


“This evening I listened to a CD that it feels like I have owned for absolutely ages- Crepsucular Rays, the duo by Toshimaru Nakamura and Hårvard Volden on the Another Timbre label. I guess actually that I have had this one for a while, having bought a copy back at the concerts the duo played in London in February. Volden is a young Norwegian improviser that plays an acoustic guitar laid flat upon a table that he then bows, scrapes and applies electroacoustic devices to to create quite a wide variety of sounds, from everyday plucked strings to alien sounding drones. The inevitable similarity to Keith Rowe’s techniques, or at least his techniques from a few years back are unavoidable, but while some of Volden’s approach may well have been influenced at a distance by Rowe his sound is actually quite different, the main contrast being the acoustic nature of much of it. Toshi Nakamura’s no input mixing board will be familiar to most readers of these pages, and throughout the two tracks on Cresucular Rays he mixes up his approach from extended clean sinetones through to some of his more aggressively violent work.

In many ways Crepsucular Rays is just a good solid improv album. Having played it through three times tonight after a break of a couple of weeks when it didn’t get played at all, I am actually struggling to find things to say about it that are not really obvious comments. Its a CD that veers wildly between beautiful and ugly sounds, but arranges them in constantly shifting patterns that highlight a conversation that works in both linear and laminal ways at the same time. The twists and turns of the music, the little dark corners hiding unexpected moments of sound all curl and unfold together as the tracks progress, with Nakamura’s washes of colour and scorching rasps of heat seeping around the generally smaller, incidental sounds of Volden. The combination of electronic and acoustic sounds overlaid also gives a depth and richness to the music. It seems obvious to state it here, but it is the combination of the rough and the smooth, the dark and the light, short and long that give this music its energy. There are lengthy passages during which one or the other musician might let extended sounds run, or might repeat a single phrase several times. So the other will react with the opposite approach, adding disruption to any kind of comfort, throwing a handful of grit into the well-oiled machine.

Searching for an overall descriptive term with which to describe Crepsucular Rays maybe “sensual” fits the bill. Not in some cheesy warm and cosy bubble bath advert manner, but rather as a way of describing the mix of intense approaches and close engagement between the two musicians here. Sure we have heard music this good, and also even better from Toshi before on a good number of occasions, but its great to hear a new voice in the music as well working alongside him in a confident and accomplished manner. This duo seem to continue to play together quite often, despite the geographical challenges in doing so, suggesting that there is more to come from the pairing in the future. I certainly hope so.”                  Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear

“Another duet, this time between Håvard Volden on 12-string guitar and Toshimaru Nakamura on no-input mixing board. Two 20-minute tracks, two meticulous improvisations where noise and silence weave a physical form of tension. Nakamura always manages to enrapture with only a few sound gestures, thanks to his incredible sense of space-time placement. Volden easily finds his place inside this soundworld. Excellent.”   

                                                                                        Francois Couture, Monsieur Délire

’Håvard Volden’s guitar has twelve strings, and the no-input mixing board of Toshi Nakamura is always the same.  In other words here Nakamura has two times as many sounds onto which to add effects than he does with a regular guitar.  And moreover this is what he sets about doing.  Pulling or stretching the sound of a string into infinity (or almost) to force Volden to find the best way of producing a counter-attack.   At one moment the guitar sounds like a buzzing koto or whirring cogwheeels, but it is soon spitting out interference and distortion, the chords and arpeggios of noise music. I think I’ve heard Nakamura elsewhere playing more poetically, but what he loses in poetry he here gains in brute reality.  Poetry is perhaps no longer the priority.”

                                                                                        Pierre Cécile, Le Son du Grisli

“Three new releases on Another Timbre.....Another new name for me is Havard Volden, who plays 12-string guitar and objects. He played two concerts in Norway in 2008 with Toshimaru Nakamura and his no-input mixing board. I am not sure if these were edited, or if these twenty-two minutes are the complete recordings. Not that it matters that much of course. There is some great powerful playing going on here. Nakamaru is a drift here with his no input mixer, layering a firm foundation of buzzing, ringing and crackling sounds. Volden plays his guitar with the objects, subtracting an interesting range of odd tones from the 12 strings. Bowing, plucking and hitting become a steady stream here that goes along fine with the stream of consciousness sounds from Nakamaru. Or perhaps Volden leads and Nakamaru follows? I don't know, but its surely a great flow and fine interaction....

Three excellent discs.”                                                         Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

The Norwegian guitarist Håvard Volden is getting some international recognition. Last week he did an excellent performance in London, along with three well-known musicians of the electro-acoustic contemporary field. Yesterday, he played with Toshimaru Nakamura, the Japanese minimalist who plays the no-input mixing board, on the first of three John Cage events at the Henie-Onstad Art Centre this season.

Crepuscular Rays is a timbre based album with some auditory surprises. The music is slow and quiet, with contrasting elements. A cutting tone, a crackling flicker, or a deep bass tone gives the progress colour.It is exciting to listen to an expression that moves with this much unpredictability.

The sound of Håvard Volden’s tabletop guitar is manipulated beyond recognition, while the strings vibrate in a traditional style. The sound can be perceived as cool, but it is a coolness of refreshing quality and a substance leaving the listener with a warm impression.”                          

Arild Andersen, Aftenposten

“Toshimaru Nakamura is so prolific these days that it's hard to keep up – last year alone saw about ten releases. This duo with young Norwegian guitarist Håvard Volden looks to be his first for 2010, so he may be slowing down just a tad. This is the first I've heard from Volden, but his use of treated 12-string guitar fits right in to the "guitar as sound generator" approach practiced so widely these days: steely plucked notes, bowed and mangled strings, various kinds of crackle and hum, and the occasional use of a hand-held fan. Nakamura is as always a sensitive collaborator: he's particularly active and forceful here, deploying glitches, aggressive squeals, static and sine waves across the two extended improvisations. There are captivating moments throughout – notably the sputter and rumbles that start the second piece, which lead to some animated repartee.”

Michael Rosenstein, Paris Transatlantic

“Den gode Toshimaru Nakamuras svidande utpressade ljud ur hans mixerbord känner jag väl till. Det blir minsta möjliga rörelse och största möjliga tystnad. Han rör sig underifrån hela tiden, skär, repar, musiken är gäll, aldrig vilande. Det är därför litet märkligt att höra honom tillsammans med norske Håvard Volden i Another timbres fina gitarrserie. Volden spelar en dramatiskt och klanginriktad tolvsträngad gitarr och diverse små objekt.

Det är mycket inriktat på ljud, närmast i ett slags post-fri-impro. Nakamura spelar alltid som om han hade all tid i världen och inget tålamod hos publiken att ta hänsyn till. Det tycker jag är fina fisken. En långsam uttröttning skaver ner förväntningar, till och med på att det skulle handla om musik. I stället följer vilan, försjunkandet, otåligheten, ångest som går i dagen. Här blir på ett vis Volden den otålige lyssnaren som inte pallar med att balansera på utdragna knasterlinor.

Han tänder till och liksom släcker Nakamuras raspigaste brusbränder med vackra toner från gitarren som får klinga ut i rummet som om det vore new age på gång. Det finns en ljudromantik kring det välklingande, som jag inte riktigt är överens med. Nakamura sprutar på som bara han kan och tänder hela mixerbordet i kärva skärvor. Volden gnuggar med, men föredrar ändå att spela enkla snabba figurer på gitarren. Jag är inte överens hela vägen. Det är vackert men ändå saknar jag väl litet av improns lärdomar av öronföreningar. Kontraster i all ära, men försjunkenhet är också något att revoltera mot och undersöka. Här ställs för mig en fantastisk musiker i konstaterandets konst mot en hänsynslös mästare i ifrågasättandets grusigt kärva konst, där icke en skön ton lämnas ovänd.

Sedan kan man invända att Volden skapar som en spegelblank yta genom sitt skönspel med små vågbrus som bildar horisontlinje i Nakamuras expressiva landskap. Visst är det så, och då blir musiken enhetlig för mig igen.

Men för mig återstår till slut intrycket av en välformulerad gitarrist av stor integritet tillsammans med en ohyfsad och intressant ljudkompis, som inte håller sig till reglerna en enda gång. Det gör skivan oemotståndlig. Om än bitvis tråkig, vilket är lika med konventionell, men denna tråkighet löper parallellt med Nakamuras maniska rivjärnsinsatser.

Livs levande i sina många brottytor.”                                      Thomas Millroth, Sound of Music

If anyone can provide a Swedish translation of thism, we’d be grateful....

“After Tetuzi Akiyama, Keith Rowe and Annette Krebs, Toshimaru Nakamura befriends another deconstructer of the guitar.  This one, the Norwegian Håvard Volden is unknown to many, and uses a 12-string acoustic plus various objects amongst which I recognise a bow, e-bow, a motor with a rotating head, and metal rods.  This paraphenalia is put to work with other techniques which are fairly easily identifiable:  the body of the instrument being rubbed in a circular pattern and occasionally struck, the strings touched as if by accident, or rather on the contrary, being touched for several minutes on end with the help of a mechanical apparatus:  so many actions and physical gestures which contrast with the immateriality of the crackles and other high-frequencies emanating from the no-input mixing board of Toshimaru Nakamura.  Recorded in 2008 at concerts in Oslo and Trondheim (the Arctic circle isn't far from there) , these two improvisations sometimes feel like trekking on the ice cap where every movement, however small, can only be made through sustained efforts.  The polar winds sculpt the frozen crust, the ice cracks beneath the feet, breathing becomes gasping, the strength of materials and biological rhythms become reduced as – and to the extent that – progress is made.  Some iridescent ice-cliffs stand in the middle of the arid expanses, notably on 'Perception' when plucked strings echo the mysterious animal rumblings and crackling arpeggios slowly disintegrate in gusts of seriously oxidised dust in the course of a narrative journey that alternates between light and shadow, or perhaps more importantly, focuses on the border that separates the two.”    

Jean-Claude Gevrey,  scala tympani

“Wordlessly authoritative music, exemplary in firmly refusing cushiness, thoroughly logical in its essential configuration. Volden maneuvers a 12-string guitar with objects, Nakamura acts behind a legendary no-input mixing board. Over the course of the first chapter “Scattering” they leave the sonic events come about similarly to someone who stands immobile in a wood throughout a windy day, letting dead leaves and small pieces of branches hit an unflustered composure, blinking every once in a while, listening intensely. The combination of pressure and stasis is perfect; the different ranges of frequencies do not determine bloodsheds but there’s no alliance involved, either. A series of subsonic moans around the thirteen minute evokes a lost soul’s distress. Everything is connected according to what appears as an unyielding rationale; the consecutiveness of deep hums, stridently acute pitches, resounding motions on the guitar body, scathing feedback noxiousness and the ever-present underworld of scrapes is acidly sinuous and extremely edgy. In “Perception”, Nakamura, increasing the number of jarring emissions from his machinery, contrasts Volden’s tendency to let out a few “regular” plucked and picked notes from the soundhole, the latter incidences augmenting an unambiguous transparency. Still, the real core of the matter is symbolized by the uneven buzzing-cum-sinister rumble starting halfway through the track, almost immediately followed by a constant ringing accompanied by cynical fizzy discharges. The systematic absence of culmination points in favour of a persistent tension – perceptible even during the episodes in which the sources are particularly rarefied – is a major plus. Discriminative excrescences from untraceable organisms, difficult to decipher completely, mesmerizing for that very reason. Great record.”

                                                                                    Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

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