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Another Timbre

John Eyles By

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Another Timbre is the newest label to appear on the UK scene. Its first batch of releases appeared in autumn 2007—to considerable acclaim—and its second batch in spring 2008. The music that Another Timbre releases is a fascinating blend of improv, eai and modern composition, unlike that of any other current label.

The label is the brainchild of Simon Reynell who has worked in television for 25 years as a producer, mostly over the past 12 years as a documentary sound recordist. His decision to start the label resulted from a confluence of professional and personal factors. He was becoming increasingly disillusioned with TV in the UK, especially documentaries which he felt were being marginalized, sensationalized and dumbed-down; his work was no longer satisfying and he needed a new creative challenge. When he inherited £14,000 from an aunt, he started thinking. Around this time Reynell attended The Contest of Pleasures performance at the 2006 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. He thought it was fantastic and asked John Butcher if anyone planned to release it; when Butcher said 'no,' Reynell saw his chance... That performance became Another Timbre's first release, Tempestuous, at01.

The diversity of the releases on Another Timbre clearly reflects Reynell's own taste in music, of which he says, "I've been a fan of contemporary music since my late teens (the early '70's). I first got into it through the classical end—Stockhausen, Nono, Berio, Cage—but soon discovered free improvisation, and as a student bought lots of Incus, Bead & FMP LP's (in those days students got grants). I was always more drawn to improvisation which, to my ears at least, connected more to contemporary classical music than free jazz, so Hugh Davies, Derek Bailey, AMM & the Gruppo di Nuova Consonanza were particular favorites. My interest in contemporary classical music has continued alongside my passion for improv, so I was very clear that I wanted Another Timbre to cover both areas. However I soon discovered that most classical music is prohibitively expensive to bring to disc, unless you have a wealthy patron or commercial backer. So whereas I'd really like a third of the releases to be classical, the reality will be a lot less.

Within improv, I realize that I have been very lucky to be around at a time when a lot of excellent players are active, especially in the UK. I felt some sort of obligation to document a little of what was going on. I think that for me the deaths of Hugh Davies and Derek Bailey added a sense of urgency to this feeling. Inevitably Another Timbre's documentation will reflect my particular favorites, so expect repeated releases by the likes of Rhodri Davies John Butcher, Thomas Lehn, Matt Davis, Max Eastley, Chris Burn, Bechir Saade etc. Another Timbre improv releases will mostly be duos, trios & quartets. I don't want to do solos, as I like the sense of collaboration in small group improvisations. And I very rarely hear large group improvisations that I feel work very well. There are exceptions, of course, but don't expect many large group improv releases on Another Timbre."

Of one release, Music for Shakuhachi, composed by Frank Denyer and played by Yoshikazu Iwamoto, Reynell is adamant that it not be considered World Music: "For me, the Denyer shakuhachi disc isn't World Music at all; he's just an exciting and under-appreciated contemporary composer who happens to use a lot of non-western instruments & timbres." Nonetheless, An Account of my Hut—one of the latest batch of releases—consists of beguilingly beautiful chamber improvisations by Clive Bell and Bechir Saade, played on shakuhachi and ney; so it seems we can expect the label's releases to go some way beyond the conventional soundscapes of eai, improv and contemporary composition.

Reynell is not going to be partisan or factionalist in his choice of music for Another Timbre. He says, "One of the things I like about several of the above musicians is that their work as a whole straddles—and thereby renders problematic—the perceived division between eai and EFI [European Free Improv]. Though those two labels may make a certain sense in broadly descriptive terms, I like music on both sides of that perceived divide. I want Another Timbre's catalogue to pointedly avoid taking sides on the eai/EFI split. I love the music of several of the eai heroes, though others happen to leave me cold. Similarly I think there are 'old-style' improvisers who are stuck in a rut, but equally there are others who are probably assumed by eai's more passionate advocates to be stale & uninteresting, but who I think have a good deal to contribute. John Russell, Phil Minton & Evan Parker are examples of great musicians who can, if given the chance, produce really interesting collaborations with players more linked to eai."

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