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Fourth Page: Blind Horizons

John Eyles By

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Blind Horizons is the second album of 2011 from Fourth Page, the rapid follow-up to its debut, Along the Weak Rope, released on Forwind in May. Fourth Page consists of vocalist and guitarist Charlie Beresford, pianist Carolyn Hume, bassist Peter Marsh and drummer Paul May. There are long-standing links between Hume, May and Marsh. May has been the pianist's drummer of choice for several years now, notably on their impressive series of duo albums on Leo dating back as far as 2000. May and Marsh have collaborated frequently as the rhythm section of several groupings, notably in the improvising trio Elvers (Forwind, 2011). Prior to Fourth Page, Beresford seems to have had no previous connections to the other three, but had released albums of his own down-tempo, atmospheric songs.

The remarkable—maybe unique—thing about Fourth Page is that together they freely improvise and evolve songs complete with lyrics, vocals and skeletal melodies. While an ensemble such as The Magic ID has effectively combined improvisation with song forms, it has, most often, employed existing song melodies and lyrics rather than improvising its own. Therein lies the difference; Fourth Page takes improvised music to exciting places it hasn't really been before.

The quartet's crucial element is Beresford's voice, and that point is made eloquently on the album's twelve-minute opener, "Summon you to me." For its first half, it is an improvised piece consisting of sparse atmospheric phrases from bowed guitar, piano, bass and drums punctuated by plenty of space. The four are accomplished improvisers, so their phrases combine together effectively into an engaging and enthralling improvisation which could have happily continued for the full length of the track. But, after five-and-a-half minutes, Beresford's voice enters and the focus of the piece shifts dramatically. The music continues much as before but now it seems to accompany the voice; the effect is like one of those optical illusions in which the same thing is seen instantaneously in a different way—here, the entry of the vocals alters the way the music is heard.

Beresford's voice is an expressive melodic instrument ideally suited to conveying his lyrics, which seem chosen as much for their sound as for conveying a narrative. In some ways, Fourth Page could be considered a continuation of the long and honorable history of jazz accompaniment to poetry which dates back to the Beats and beyond. However, Beresford sings instead of reciting, and the emotion of what he sings is at least as important as any literal meaning.

There is no obvious premeditated form to the music, but Hume, Marsh and May are adept at reacting to Beresford's guitar, vocals and phrasing, adding subtle interjections that emphasize and heighten their dramatic effect. Time and again across the seven tracks, the foursome engages in spontaneous creation, the end results seeming like a minor miracle. Across the whole album, the music retains a consistent sound and mood, a delicate impressionism that is highly distinctive and makes compelling listening. Stunning.

Track Listing: Summon you to me; Blind horizons; Cut deep; Times like these; Melancholy orbits; Buried limb; On the waking edge.

Personnel: Charlie Beresford: vocals, acoustic guitar, khaen; Carolyn Hume: piano; Peter Marsh: bass; Paul May: percussion.

Title: Blind Horizons | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Leo Records

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