Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
at-b03 loiter volcano
Paul Abbott - electronics
Léo Dumont - percussion
Ute Kanngiesser - cello
recorded in London, March 2009
“Today I have been listening again to a disc I have enjoyed a lot over the past few weeks, the brilliantly titled Loiter Volcano by the trio of Ute Kanngiesser, (cello) Paul Abbott, (electronics) and Léo Dumont (percussion). This is another in the series of four CDrs released on the label as part of their Byways series. Kanngiesser and Abbott are, as regular readers here will know, two of my favourite young musicians coming through in London right now, Dumont is a French percussionist whose work I really like a lot, who was recorded with this group back in March by Simon Reynell in the Church of St James the Great in North London.
Now in theory, this trio shouldn’t work, and if you pay attention to certain schools of thought they shouldn’t even be playing together. Kanngiesser is a brilliant, but very “busy” and expressive young cellist that does not leave a lot of room for silence in her playing. Abbott is an intense musician working with wild, partly unpredictable electronics that he somehow keeps reined in, though occasionally things do explode. Dumont has a history of playing very quietly (though not exclusively). Perhaps though (and the musicians will hate me for saying this, sorry guys!) if there is one CD release that best encapsulates the spirit of openness and possibility that is currently rife in London this might be it. This CD works because the three musicians have found a way to make it work. All three have moved slightly from their comfort zones to find ways of combining into an intriguing, challenging but coherent trio.
Kanngiesser’s cello sound is present just about continually through this single forty-six minute piece. For the most part her input is subdued though, as expressionistic and vivid as ever, but quieter, or at least no louder than the other two musicians. Dumont spends a lot of time intertwining his little acoustic cracks and scrapes around the shapes that she throws, more continuously active than I have heard him before. Abbott keeps his input in check, allowing regular, often sudden slithers of feedback and vibrating metal to penetrate the music, but never quite to the degree that the music is completely shifted off balance. His presence gives the album much of its tension, as you never quite know what to expect, or how to expect it. If Kanngiesser’s playing is luxurious, rich and something to lie back and float upon, Dumont adds some structure, a frame for the music, never going near anything like a rhythm but giving things an earthy, rooted feeling. Abbott then carves shapes into the music every so often with his streams of feedback and metallic shards.
All together, Loiter Volcano is a constant stream of thoughtful, challenging music that doesn’t let the listener rest up for one moment. The album was recorded without an audience present, and I wasn’t there, but I can imagine how the room would have felt, a feeling of quietly respectful tension beforehand, and three very exhausted musicians right after. There is a lot of careful listening taking place in this music. If Kanngiesser’s playing sounds continuous it is not without tremendous sensitivity to whatever else is happening. The agility she shows to adjust the pace, volume or energy in her playing to either match or offset the sounds of her colleagues is admirable. Abbott has the ability at his fingertips to obliterate the output of the other two whenever he chooses, but his control is excellent, both physically and mentally, choosing the right moments to add to the mix, be it a gentle whistle for a spilt second or a semi-seismic crash. Dumont’s ear is finely tuned to everything throughout, his sound appearing in just the right places and rising to the foreground every so often in a manner that feels very natural.
Natural is a good word to describe how Loiter Volcano sounds. Despite the variety in playing styles present this does not feel like a trio that has been forced together. All three will release other CDs that better display their more comfortable musical characters, but here this trio showcases their ability to accept challenge, confront failure and find a way to work together without losing individuality. Another great Paul Abbott sleeve too.” - Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
“The excellently titled Loiter Volcano was a constant source of somewhat surprising pleasure the first time I listened. "Surprising" because the general attack leans a bit more toward efi (I suppose "post-efi" has been appropriate for a good while) than I normally care for. But this mix of electronics, percussion and cello simply filled the space in a manner that held me rapt throughout. As with the other release featuring Dumont, it's partially about the textures and their creative deployment but, more, it's the structural fabric that emerges during the piece, the tensile strength one hears; there are no weak planks, each passage provides sure, if giddy, footing to the next. Whatever electronics Abbott is wielding, he does so with great tact and Kanngiesser's cello, often residing in a semi-traditional zone, is a perfect foil, not lacking in emotion. Loiter Volcano is my personal pick of this litter.” - Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
“In a 2002 interview, percussionist and current AMM member Eddie Prévost discussed the prominent trait of a bad improviser: insecurity. Having this characteristic, feeling that you don't quite measure up to the other members or the task at hand, is the cause of sudden bursts of wasted energy, interjectory tangents that lead nowhere and, at the sacrifice of the musical arch the ensemble spent twenty minutes building, the need to dominate the band's ethos. In other words, a child hell-bent on being louder than the next kid, talking over others to get his point across (I spent a recent May afternoon dealing with this scenario until my head nearly imploded, desperately answering "yes", "maybe" and "where did that happen?" as three nine-year-olds spastically barked for attention).
However, Loiter Volcano, though formed from contrasting instruments and personalities, is downright harmonious; three disparate skill sets from electronics (aka electronics/not electronics, or toy instruments, cymbals, effects etc.) adept Paul Abbott, percussionist Leo Dumont and cellist Ute Kanngiesser (also a part-time AMM comrade) may sound at once, but the experience behind the multiple voices allows for an impeccable, commanding vocabulary, not a disjointed Tower of Babel.
Shuffling, plucking and scraping, the trio embarks on a flawless 46-minute flight. Panned right, Dumont patiently fiddles with a snare drum, pulling at the springs and rubbing the membrane; Kanngiesser (center) mutes his strings and channels nervous energy into a mix of dropped bows and hushed pizzicato while Abbott gracefully switches things on and off, snaps metal and bends plastic and wood (rocking back and forth on the floor, perhaps). They cultivate this sound world, sparsely modulating processes and gingerly augmenting color schemes with slow-motion slight of hand, like a vine you don't notice until it overwhelms you. At the 12-minute mark, after a relative tumult of Abbott's patch cord squeaks, Dumont's dull pulse and Kanngiesser's feverish saw, the three sluggishly curtain call and interlude with a brief episode of finger-tapping bongos, dog whistle frequencies and a wash of harmonics before taking flight into another scene, this one seething with twitching, fragmented rhythms. Now focused on intensification rather than development, they work towards pivot points, though never entirely resting.
Near 26 minutes, as the trio sinks into a rocking chair meditation of swirling brushes, spacious melodic intervals and Abbot playing with and rewinding a Dictaphone, you become aware of something: you're completely captive, hanging on the group's every word, and they're not running out of ideas or ways to find new discoveries through a review of motifs — and they don't until, after a stunning finale of Kanngiesser nearly bisecting his soundboard and a hurricane-versus-an-aluminum-roof style cacophony, they put down their smoking instruments, tend to calluses and rub sore temples.”
Dave Madden, The Squid’s Ear
“Since its inception Another Timbre has regularly released low-priced CD-Rs (on its Byways imprint) to supplement its main CD catalogue. The label has used its latest batch of CD-Rs to document musicians living in or passing through London in March and April of 2009, so they function as a kind of audio diary or sketchbook. The London improvising scene is vibrant and dynamic, so such documentation plays a valuable role in capturing it before it moves on.
Although they are released in modest packaging, with monochrome sleeve designs, proprietor Simon Reynell stresses that the CD-Rs can be issued very cheaply as he does the recording and mastering himself. In fact, the latest batch was recorded in churches in and around London. They are not compromised in terms of musical quality and Reynell wants them to be as strong as the CD catalogue. The music here bears this out.
Initially, this combination of electronics, percussion and cello looks ill-matched, with Paul Abbott's electronics seeming able and likely to dominate the other two. To the credit of all three players, especially Abbott, that never happens. Instead, a dynamic three-way equilibrium is established. Each player is aware of the others and weaves in and around them, inhabiting the interstices that they leave vacant, so that the component sounds merge together into a unified whole. In particular, Ute Kanngiesser's cello makes its presence felt, reinforcing the impression already given by her live performances of Kanngiesser as a formidable improviser. She can be heard throughout but never dominates, supplying underpinning arco drones and plucked single notes, punctuated by occasional spikier sounds in response to the others. The whole 46 minutes is a satisfying piece that amply repays repeated listening.” - John Eyles, All About Jazz
“Another Timbre is one of those labels with a name – like Blue Note, Impulse! Or AUM Fidelity – that resonates with the sound of the music it releases. Founded in 2007 by Simon Reynell, a television sound recordist disillusioned at the state of broadcast media (especially in his own field of documentary making), the label has developed a robust core identity with a catalogue of 19 discs with as many distinct perspectives on quiet, lowercase Improv.
Except, of course, the full picture is more complicated. Reynell has also issued composed music by John Cage and Frank Denyer, while Improvisations for Shakuhachi and Ney finds Clive Bell and Bechir Saade building around another cultural construct altogether. But Reynell's nuanced, detailed approach to recording has had the effect of prompting improvisors into exploring uncharted margins of atomised sound, secure in the knowledge that their explorations will be faithfully reproduced. This sequence of four releases, all recorded in London during March and April this year, comes under the Another Timbre Byways tag – a satellite series of CD-R recordings designed as a sort of inexpensive audio blog documenting a specific moment in time.
Control and its Opposites featuring Jamie Coleman (trumpet), Grundik Kasyansky (electronics) and Seymour Wright (alto saxophone) is a typical Another Timbre project. Recorded at the Church of St.James the Great in Friern Barnet, North London, the disc opens with the exterior ambience of faint traffic rumble and leaves blowing on trees framing a context for the music to come: Coleman's marvellously chameleon-like trumpet zones into the bountiful harmony of this external background, his supple, breathy overtones weaving around textures and timbres spotlighted by the immaculate recording. Kasyansky's electronic rig occasionally blurts out ear-splitting shockers, but otherwise probes the emerging continuum. In the latter stages of this 80-minute improvisation, Wright sporadically punctures the flow with seemingly incongruous Fire Music-like shrieks. But listen closer and you realise that he has managed to harness the impetus behind the sound, while ditching the stylistic reference itself. Yes, another timbre.
The church acoustic figures once again in Meshes, featuring French trombonist Mathias Forge with Phil Julian (electronics) and David Papapostolou (cello), also recorded in Friern Barnet, with a second 'live' track cut a few days previously. Forge's burping trombone, Papapostolou's percussive cello and Julian's electronics stutter onwards in a procession of knocks and rattles that ricochet against the resonant acoustic. While, in another context, those same gestures might imply velocity and speed, these acoustic realities divert the music towards a more meandering, leisurely paced structure that is intriguingly at odds with its material.
On Loiter Volcano Ute Kanngiesser approaches the cello with a wholly other mindset to Papapostolou's. A striking sequence of high-register pizzicato notes is heard against the twanging cartoon violence of Léo Dumont's percussion and Paul Abbott's electronics. As the Heath Robinson mechanism unwinds, her drones and arpeggiations move with the grain of her instrument. But she hijacks that grain, twisting cello mannerisms into distorted shapes as she processes the electronic and percussion onslaught. Scrub, violinist Matt Milton's duo with Léo Dumont, isn't bad, but feels more like generic free Improv than the other three. But it does underscore how exacting a language Reynell's concepts of recording improvised music have provoked, and in such a short time.” - Philip Clark, The Wire
“Since the inception of the Another Timbre label a few years back, Simon Reynell
has been producing consistently absorbing and challenging releases of European advanced
improvisation with overlap into areas of contemporary composition. While he has looked
toward France, Spain, Germany – and even the US for a recent recording by Kyle Bruckmann
and Ernst Karel – he has resolutely focused on music being made in and around London.
What makes London particularly intriguing at the moment is the commitment toward
exploration and cross-fertilization of multiple generations of free improvisers,
with the likes of Evan Parker, Eddie Prévost, Max Eastley, Clive Bell and John Butcher
collaborating with Tom Chant, John Edwards, Rhodri and Angharad Davies, Mark Wastell,
and Graham Halliwell. And increasingly, a new generation is starting to get some
visibility. Seymour Wright, Jamie Coleman, Sebastian Lexer, and Ross Lambert, who’ve
been documented on a handful of releases on Prévost’s Matchless label over the last
decade, are being joined by a number of musicians who are settling around London.
These musicians are finding an outlet at venues like Café Otó, and small DIY series
presented at churches and store-fronts, as well as festivals like Freedom of the
City and Reynell’s Unnamed Music Festival.
They have come to London from many different locations, and to improvisation from differing backgrounds. Phil Julian comments, “I think that there are some very strong younger improvising players in London at the moment and it's very interesting for me as someone slightly outside of the environment to step in and be welcomed immediately. There's no sense of 'well, who's this noisy laptop guy who's suddenly arrived? not sure we want him around' – it's a very open group open to new ideas, and that's exciting.”
For many of them, Eddie Prevost's improvisation workshop, which has been taking place in Southwark every Friday evening for over a decade, now provides a central laboratory. Some are regulars while others drift in and out. Grundik Kasyansky describes it nicely: “At the workshop we play a bit, but mostly we listen to other people playing (15 – 20 people playing mostly in duos and trios and we have only two hours for all that). Anybody can arrive – a rocker, a jazzman, a non-musician, a goofy “superstar”, a scholar, a drunken clochard, so you learn to accept anything, and deal with it. Slowly you learn to keep your mind open and concentration high. You learn to agree, to disagree, to hold, to continue, to stop, to wait, to listen, to push, to let things go and to bring them back. It is constant challenge, hard work and serious fun.”
Reynell has been a steadfast supporter of these musicians. He recollects that “when I started the Another Timbre label I was very much aware that a new generation of players was emerging within the UK, and they interested me a lot. The new players were hardly represented on disc and I was keen to present their work in two ways: either by linking them on CDs with more established players (as on discs such as Hum, Dun and Midhopestones) or simply playing with each other on CDRs (CDs would unfortunately be financial suicide). So the desire to profile the work of this new generation was fundamental to the label from the start. Representing the music was quite tricky because, firstly, the groupings are so fluid, and there are very few longer-term groups, and secondly the music of this generation is constantly changing and evolving in different ways. Over the course of 2008 I did several recordings with the Coleman-Kasyansky-Wright trio (one of the few long-term groupings), and each recording was very different from the next; the musicians felt that the recordings had become out of date within weeks. It happened that spring was a very slack time for work for me, so I decided to use it to do several recordings in London, and thought it could be interesting to issue a small series of discs that would, together, give a kind of snapshot of that generation's music at one particular moment.”
It is that notion of a snapshot that makes these CDRs so compelling. The series was meticulously curated by Reynell over the course of a few weeks in the Spring of 2009, selecting a handful of the London-based musicians he's been following, and taking advantage of the fact that French musicians Mathias Forge (photo) and Leo Dumont were passing through London on their way back to France from the IandE festival in Dublin to arrange a series of recording sessions over the course of a few weeks in the Spring of 2009. Carefully choosing churches around London that had favorable acoustics, he organised one concert with an audience as well as two separate recording sessions (with no audience present). Most of the groups were first-time meetings, pulling together musicians Reynell thought would click. What is common amongst the sets is a fascination of the timbral qualities of the intersection of acoustic and electronic sound sources. But most importantly, there is the notion that technique and vocabulary are not enough – one must use those foundational elements for the formulation of a personal and ensemble language.
Listening to the trio of Dumont, Paul Abbott (electronics) and Ute Kanngiesser (cello) it is hard to believe this was a first encounter. Though Abbott and Kanngiesser are based in London, the two had only played together as part of the weekly Workshop, and neither of them knew Dumont’s music before they sat down together at the private recording session at the Church of St. James the Great. The three musicians develop an inextricable sense of ensemble at once: Dumont’s ruffled sputters mesh so convincingly with the warm, woody resonance of Kanngiesser’s cello and Abbott’s amplified fricatives and quavering sine waves that it's hard to believe this isn’t a regularly-working unit. The music has a charged dynamism combining pointillistic attack and electrifying areas of dense agitation. Kanngiesser doesn’t shy away from swooping bowed work and cascading arpeggios, playing off of Dumont’s tuned, bent, and chafed textures and Abbott’s spryly acrobatic electronics to great effect. Balancing intrepid focus and energetic abandon, the trio spontaneously navigates their way through a collective flow in a set bristling with discovery from the first probing moments through to its explosive conclusion. The intimate recording captures every detail with an even, spatial balance.
Considering this series of recordings as a group, it's tempting to jump to neat conclusions about a new "thing": a new scene, a new sound, a new community. That is particularly true for those listening to this music geographically removed from London. But Seymour Wright responds cautiously when asked about whether these musicians, are part of a particularly musical community. “Actually [there are] many different communities – social, musical, moral… real, and probably mostly, imagined, in London. The workshop is a nexus for some of them, as is Café Otó at present. Yes, of course there is a very warm social group around these two different fulcra, but it is far more complexly knit and limber in its unity than may be thought and imagined. There are, more helpfully, also what I think of as schools of musical operation and it may be the case that any three people playing together in one of these settings are engaged in fundamentally different, albeit simultaneous, activities. I am tempted to go as far as to suggest that the number of communities and perhaps schools is a factor of the number of individuals involved, but I am not sure.”
So those looking for a harbinger of the next "new thing" can keep searching, then. Everyone involved in these recordings cautions about the codification and / or commoditization that can come from documents which, by their very nature are a snapshot of a particular point in time. A glimpse at the websites of any of these musicians reveals that they've been playing in a broad variety of contexts with increasing regularity, and haven't been particularly interested in documenting their work. Many of them see the process of exploration and discovery as more central to their music making than recording. Even so, these four CDRs provide an essential dispatch from the front line, from a group of musicians who are worth keeping on your radar.” - Michael Rosenstein, Paris Transatlantic
“Electronics, percussion and cello, respectively. There’s a clandestine essence in
this music, like if the participants – instead of diffusing the fruits of their gestures
in the vastness of a church as is the case – were furtively gathering in some sort
of damp hole under a huge uninhabited building, the vibrations of the latter leaking
into the general mindset. The interest resides in the fact that nobody tries to departmentalise
the improvisational intuitions through forced heterogeneity, the player constantly
remaining in the middle of a natural, if slightly contaminated flow. No element remains
unemployed, with Kanngiesser’s cello obviously at the centre of what’s more recognizable,
subdued dissertations and sensible management of the upper partials mixed amidst
the customary rasping activities, with an increase of the timbral corporeality in
the second half of the disc. The heterodox trait of Dumont’s tampering is neither
predominant nor disproportionate, his despoliation of percussive structures voluntarily
restricted within the collective entente, pragmatic manipulations of mismatched kernels
complementing the unidiomatic quality of the interplay. One could very well doubt
about the effective presence of Abbott’s electronic processing, which is extremely
subtle, almost to the point of invisibility, yet transforms certain passages quite
effectively with a laconic rebuilding of unfixed configurations. Not a seminal album,
but excellent nevertheless.” - Massimo Ricci, Temporary Fault