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Muster: Find A City To Live In

John Eyles By

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Muster consists of electric guitarist James O’Sullivan from South London and electronicist Dan Powell from Brighton, some fifty miles away. This duo was formed accidentally in November 2016, when Powell was supposed to be playing in another duo as part of a Catford Constitutional improv night; the other member couldn't make it, so Powell and O'Sullivan formed an ad hoc duo, having previously played together at the London manifestation of the Long Half Day, twelve hours of continuous improvisation with musicians from London and Brighton.

Although the album title Find A City To Live In is a quote from "Cities" by Talking Heads, and O'Sullivan says he is aware of and loves Fear of Music (Sire, 1979), the album from which it is taken, there is more to it than that. The title also refers to the method O'Sullivan and Powell employed in making the record, as the music in its entirety did not exist in any particular space as such.

To make the album, during 2018 the two swapped solo recordings and made live responses to each other's work; incidentally, a method similar to that was employed by Derek Bailey and Han Bennink for the two volumes of Post Improvisation (Incus, 1999). The two worked in very different ways: O'Sullivan listened to each of Powell's tracks multiple times then recorded a live response; Powell listened to O'Sullivan's track once and made a live score to work from when he made a recording. The resulting tracks were mixed in London and Brighton, and then mastered.

Listening to the completed album, which is released on a limited-edition cassette and in digital form, one would not immediately be aware of that methodology. Across the album's five tracks, totalling thirty-five minutes, such is the skill of O'Sullivan and Powell that it is all too easy to believe they are sitting together in a room, playing and reacting to one another in real time. Compared to O'Sullivan's solo albums, Feed Back Couple (Forwind, 2011) and IL Y A (Linear Obsessional Recordings, 2017), the guitarist is recognisably the same player who integrates together the range of sounds he produces into structured, multi-layered music that sounds thought through. The key difference is that Powell does likewise with his electronic sounds and the two become intertwined to the extent that they often become indistinguishable; that is not an issue as the two are so compatible that their music sounds like the product of one brain not two.

In throwing O'Sullivan and Powell together, fate played a neat trick on that November day in 2016. On this evidence, the two were made for each other and sound as if they should have a long and fruitful partnership ahead of them. Lucky us.

Track Listing: Lines of Flight; Berm; The Making Of; Distal Bar; Zones and Bridges.

Personnel: James O’Sullivan: electric guitar; Dan Powell: electronics.

Title: Find A City To Live In | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Invisible City Records

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