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Steve Beresford, Stephen Flinn, Dave Tucker: Ink Room

John Eyles By

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Ink Room is one of those albums carrying the information that it was recorded live, with no overdubs—and it needs to. Electronic manipulator Steve Beresford, electric guitarist Dave Tucker guitar and, from Los Angeles, percussionist Stephen Flinn produce a lot of music between them, to the extent that such reassurances are required. Recorded in November 2010, the album joins the ever-growing group of recordings which enhance the reputation of the London Improvisers Orchestra. Beresford and Tucker are both members of LIO, and are also regular conductors, a role in which each of them frequently demonstrates their ability to spontaneously shape the playing of the many members of LIO into coherent, vibrant music.

While the instruments played by this trio are nowhere near as diverse a selection as those in LIO, there is no well-established paradigm for combining improvised electric guitar and drums with electronics; consequently, the threesome is in uncharted territory and so negotiate their own set of rules and priorities. On guitar, Tucker mainly plays it simple, employing a vocabulary derived more from rock than improv—a combination of single notes, runs and chords, without many effects or tricks. Flinn largely follows his example, employing a battery of techniques that rarely grab the attention, but are good at what they do, namely providing support for the others, plus coloration and the occasional diversion.

Unsurprisingly, Beresford's electronics are the least predictable element of the music—the wild card, the joker in the pack—as he calls upon a diverse selection of tones across the frequency range, many familiar from old sci-fi movies or reminiscent of animal noises. The overall effect is of a complex but well-ordered soundscape which effectively walks the tightrope between familiarity and novelty and is easy to listen to with no sharp edges or nasty shocks lurking.

So, on the album's shortest track—the effective "The Torn Couple"—Tucker and Flinn lay down an unpretentious background riff, over which Beresford adds electronic interjections, creating a piece that is beguiling in its simplicity. Next up, "The New Advocate" is more garrulous but just as effective, with Tucker's guitar well to the fore.

While Ink Room is the title of a one-off album by this trio—as has happened with Foxes Fox (Emanem, 1999), The Contest of Pleasures (Potlach, 2001) and others—in time, it could well become the name of the group itself. Let's hope so, as it would be good to hear more from this threesome.

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