Busnoys: By Tapering Torchlight (2012)
Busnoys is named after 15th century French composer Antoine Busnoys (or Busnois). Not that this gives much away about the music on By Tapering Torchlight, the trio's follow up to its debut, San Angelo (Tall Guy Records, 2010). The fact that the band is based in Bristol in the west of England, home to Massive Attack and Portishead (whose ex-member Jim Barr, Busnoys' original bassist, recorded the album at his J&J Studios), might give more of a clue to fans of a particular type of atmospheric, laidback creativity.
Busnoys is the brainchild of vibraphonist and composer Martin Pyne. He's joined by drummer Trevor Davies-drums and bassist/producer Jeff Spencer-bass, fellow members of the Bristol scene. All three are experienced improvisers and have strong track records with players such as Stan Sulzmann, John Paricelli and Iain Ballamy.
There are times when Busnoys' music is suggestive of a piano-less Modern Jazz Quartetthe lovely "Siren Song" in particularbut the neo-classical seriousness of this side of Busnoys is effectively balanced by the band's sense of humor and ability to create a spooky, mysterious or even threatening mood. In these respects, Busnoys resembles vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher's quartet, sharing its ability to build atmosphere through careful use of textures, including Pyne's electronic sounds.
"Waltzing On The Devil's Ground" exemplifies the spooky side, Pyne's echoing, crystal-clear, tone contrasting with Spencer's bass growl to create the tension and mystery that the title demands. "By Tapering Torchlight" ramps up the mystery but replaces the tension with a calming beauty, as does the meditative, spacious "A Stillness At Appomattox (no more killing and an open road home)." Pyne changes the feel of the trio on "For Ed" by moving to the gato drum, with its warm, soft, tone.
The band's sense of humor is most apparent on "oom? ....PAH!" The tune leaps between styles, genres and tempos to create a musical mélange of militaristic drum rolls, free-form interplay and funky "Peter Gunn" riffing. Trumpeter Pete Judge; like Barr, a member of Get The Blessing; joins in. At first he seems hesitant, almost dismissive, as he adds perfunctory single note exclamations to the end of Pyne's jolly vibes phrases. As the tune advances he builds his part, weaving flurries of notes in and around the spaces left by the core trio before returning to single note interpolations as the tune draws to a close.
Robert and Richard Sherman's "Hushabye Mountain" (from the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) closes the album. Not the most obvious cover, based on the tunes that precede it, but Busnoys' gentle, slow tempo, arrangement works superbly. As does everything else on By Tapering Torchlight.
Track Listing: Waltzing On The Devil's Ground; Song For Grace Melbury; oom? ….PAH!; By Tapering Torchlight; Over And Over; Remembering; For Ed; A Stillness At Appomattox (no more killing and an open road home); Daph and Chlo On The Wobbly Bridge; Siren Song; Hushabye Mountain.
Personnel: Martin Pyne: vibraphone, electronics, gato drum; Jeff Spencer: bass guitar; Trevor Davies: drums; Pete Judge: trumpet (3).
Record Label: Tall Guy Records