Evan Parker: House Full of Floors and SET
House Full of Floors
Not to be missed in Evan Parker's colossal recorded output is the great deal of fun at play in it. House Full of Floors is a case in point. Credited to the "Cylinder Trio," the group, along with Aleks Kolkowski, who chanced upon them with the object during sessions, have fun with a wax cylinder (the Thomas Edison invention). The contemporaneous release SET likewise plays with an extra-musical concept, that of biologist Lynn Margulis' "Serial Endosymbiosis Theory," wherein she states that "Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking."
Games figure in the first cut on House Full of Floors, "Three of a Kind," a number, with its acoustic guitar (played by John Russell) and bass (John Edwards), that has an almost folk feel. "Donne's Banjo" comes next and is a little darker. Russell starts to bend the notes on his guitar a bit, but Parker stays mellow, allowing only restrained attacks on his saxophone. The tension builds on the following "Ca-la-ba-son," though this is still far from Parker at his all-out ferocious, which will be refreshing to many. "Figure Dancing" introduces Kolkowski on Stroh viola (amplified by a horn attached). It starts out breathy and shimmering, threatens to build like a flock of birds taking shelter from a storm and then quiets again, as if the clouds opened up to show sun at the end, initiating another clamor from the birds as they take flight.
This is a pastoral, idyllic album with only hints of trademark dissonance that ultimately underscore an essential, true lyricism. "Kabala-sum-sum-sum" is a peppery workout of circular breathing and "Shown Jot" is a little mournful but, again, these are dark spots to give contour to the shine of the whole. The difficult onset of the penultimate title track settles into a groove approximating classic jazz until, to close, the wax cylinder in "Wind Up" gives a taste of electro-acoustic.
SET is a 40-minute live concert enclosed by two five-minute studio segments, bringing us to electro-acoustic proper. The studio intro, absent the core trio of Parker, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton, is a mysterious echo chamber of a piece performed by an electronics-wielding cast including the duo FURT. The concert piece switches this arrangement, with the bass-drums-sax trio starting out like a drier, more correct Coltrane of Interstellar Space. Electronic signals encroach on the trio, which falls out again, to leave the former mimicking them like mocking birds.
As SET builds, Parker starts to wield his soprano wildly and passionately, although, again, it is a streamlined, aerodynamic sound channeled through the studio devices. At times the workings veer toward the clinical, but just as soon, we hear swarming sparrows and cyclones and the whole environment combines with the organic as much as the synthetic. This is a testament to creativity in a reduced ecosphere, down to learning from the mitochondria and bacteria that are the subject of Margulis' theory. Every life form is crucial and any sound form is valuable.
Tracks and Personnel
House Full of Floors
Tracks: Three of a Kind; Donne's Banjo; Ca-la-ba-son; Figure Dancing; Aka AK; Kabala-sum-sum-sum; Shown Jot; House Full of Floors: Wind Up.
Personnel: Evan Parker: soprano and tenor sax; John Russell: guitar; John Edwards: bass; Aleks Kolkowski: Stroh viola, saw and wax cylander recorder.
Tracks: SET part 1 intro (studio); SET part 2 (concert); SET part 3 (studio).
Personnel: Evan Parker: saxophones; Barry Guy: bass; Paul Lytton: tympani, percussion & live electronics; FURT (Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer): electronics; Lawrence Casserley: signal processing instrument; Walter Prati: live processing; Marco Vecchi: sound projection.