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Binker Golding & Elliot Galvin: Ex Nihilo

Luke Seabright By

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Ex Nihilo sees the pairing of two British rising stars: Elliot Galvin on piano and Binker Golding, (one half of the acclaimed Binker and Moses) on saxophones. Communication is at the heart of most improvised music, and a duo strips this communication down to its most fundamental unit: the dialogue. Here the two converse with remarkable audacity as they experiment with texture and space.

You might think there's a limit to the textural complexity that only a sax and piano can achieve. And yet anyone who's listened to the solo work of fellow brit Evan Parker knows that one saxophone can sound like an orchestra. The intricacy of this duo's work arises from both musicians' vast technical repertoire, as well as Galvin's inventiveness when it comes to deconstructing his one instrument to make it sound like many.

The opener, "Aeternum Vale," sets the tone of unfettered free improvisation. Galvin manipulates his strings to create peculiar, almost electronic-sounding noises while Golding expands the landscape with Albert Ayler-esque effects on tenor. Floating, free-form conversations give way to patterns of structured rhythmic propulsion which at times sound almost like musique concrète. Moments of ferocious intensity lead to quieter ruminations, with the pair transitioning through these phases at a brilliantly engaging pace. The piece ends in hushed tones, with pattering percussion from Galvin and breathy subtone quivers from Golding.

On "Eram Quod Es, Eris Quod Sum," high-pitched soprano squeals and scuttling sheets of dense strings build up towards a drone-like, overtone-dense apex. The soprano ostinato on "Ad Usum Proprium" serves as a simple melodic canvas onto which Galvin throws impressionistic chordal interjections and resonating bass tones. Next, Galvin channels his inner Cecil Taylor before meeting Golding serendipitously on an exquisite plane of modal convergence which, as quickly as it arose, disintegrates again into atonal chaos.

"Aliquid Stat Pro Aliquot" at times has the tone of a playful modal lullaby. Here, it's Galvin's turn to maintain the ostinato which, along with his added creaks and snaps on the strings, sounds like a ghostly tune from an old, rusty, music box. On "Non Plus Ultra," the piano grounds some deep chordal harmony on top of which Golding adds plaintive pitchless brush strokes, full-range subtone runs, and microtonal oscillations. Galvin syncs up and the album ends with the two converging on the same note, as if to conclude the conversation in agreement.

Ex Nihilo provides exactly what you want from the best experimental jazz: out-there aural explorations, intricate textural shape-shifting and razor-sharp interplay full of surprise, wit and feeling. It's a brilliant effort from two exciting artists emerging from the new British jazz scene, and we can only hope this isn't the last time they record together.

Track Listing: Side One: Aeturnum Vale; Eram Quod Es, Eris Quod Sum; Ad Usum Proprium. Side Two: Adaequatio Intellectus Et Rei; Aliquid Stat Pro Aliquot; Non Plus Ultra.

Personnel: Binker Golding: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Elliot Galvin: keyboards.

Title: Ex Nihilo | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: ByrdOut Records

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