Another Timbre Byways: CD-R Improv Diaries

John Eyles By

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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.

Paul Abbott/Leo Dumont/Ute Kanngiesser
Loiter Volcano
Another Timbre Byways

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. This is easily the best of this batch of four.

Jamie Coleman/Grundik Kaasyansky/Seymour Wright
Control And Its Opposites
Another Timbre Byways

Like Paul Abbott and Ute Kanngiesser, above, all three members of this trio are participants in drummer and percussionist Eddie Prevost's weekly Friday Workshop which seems to provide a continuous supply of fresh inventive improvisers to the London scene. Here they produce one unbroken 80 minute improvisation. The three are equal partners despite trumpeter Jamie Coleman and alto saxophonist Seymour Wright being more experienced than electronicist Grundik Kasyansky. Initially, the soundscape is comparatively sparse, with individual contributions being restrained—maybe out of caution about the resonances of the church where it was recorded. Each of the three dips in and out throughout the piece and they rarely all play together. As the piece progresses, individual contributions become more garrulous. But the three rarely make obvious reactions to each other, so this feels less like a collective improvisation, more like three simultaneous solo improvisations that take care not to get in each other's way. The combination of its duration and restraint enable this music to be "just there" for long periods, only occasional details demanding attention before fading away again. So, as the title suggests, much control is in evidence but few signs of its opposites (whatever they may be.) Yes, ambient improv.

Mathias Forge/Phil Julian/David Papapostolou
Another Timbre Byways

This trio of trombone, electronics and cello perform two tracks; the first, "Long Nylon Oak," was recorded in the church of St. James the Great, Friern Barnet, without an audience and the second, "Floodlit Iron Tracery," in concert two days earlier in a different church, St. Mark's, Clerkenwell. Given the gap and the different contexts, there is a remarkable sense of continuity between the pieces, particularly commendable as the three had not played together before. Both pieces are restrained and evolve slowly. Most notably, Mathias Forge confines his contributions on trombone to subtle breathy blowing rather than full blown notes, giving them a texture that meshes (a fitting title) well with the electronics and cello. As with all four of these releases, Simon Reynell's recording perfectly captures every nuance of the music, a vital ingredient of their success.

Matt Milton/Leo Dumont
Another Timbre Byways

French percussionist Leo Dumont features for the second time here in a duo with violinist Matt Milton. Refreshingly, in contrast to the other three releases of the series, there are no electronics present here—a comparative rarity these days. Their absence gives the instruments a sense of freedom that they seem to relish. At just over half an hour, this is the briefest of these four releases but its quality makes up for the lack of quantity. Starting tentatively and quietly, scratching, scraping and droning, the violin and percussion very gradually become more outgoing as the piece progresses, giving it an engaging drama that draws the listener into the encounter.

Tracks and Personnel

Loiter Volcano

Tracks: Loiter Volcano.

Personnel: Paul Abbott: electronics; Leo Dumont: percussion; Ute Kanngiesser: cello.

Control And Its Opposites

Tracks: Control And Its Opposites.

Personnel: Jamie Coleman: trumpet; Grundik Kasyansky: electronics; Seymour Wright: alto saxophone.


Tracks: Long Nylon Oak; Floodlit Iron Tracery.

Personnel: Mathias Forge: trombone; Phil Julian: electronics; David Papapostolou: cello.


Tracks: Scrub.

Personnel: Matt Milton: violin; Leo Dumont: percussion.


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