To define saxophonist John Butcher's sound, or style, or vocabulary, is equivalent to attempting to describe a product of nature in every detail. The more examination is attempted, the more is revealed.
Of the three discs under discussion, the duo with Nilssen-Love is the most conventional in terms of what might be considered saxophone-and-drums hierarchy. Energy is high throughout, the two engaging in some extraordinarily intricate dialogue, often at fever pitch and at relatively high volume. Far from a simple blowing session however, the music bristles and crackles in very early Spontaneous Music Ensemble fashion and the results are thrilling, a sense of innocent discovery absolutely palpable throughout.
On the other end of the spectrum is the collaboration with AMM sound-sculptor Eddie Prevost. From the disc's opening gestures, the soundworld invokes all things interior and meditative. The improvisations certainly do not sound like AMM, but some of that legendary aggregate's sonic mystique is in evidence, as each sound seems to exist, for the most part, as a force to be reckoned with in and of itself. Drones ebb and flow as Butcher explores his astonishing brand of multiphonics and Prevost is right there with him every step of the way. Indeed, the two musicians create orchestral textures at many points throughout this absorbing set, stereo placement being the only way to tell who's making a particular sound.
Such sonic obscurity has long been Austrian stalwarts Polwechsel's MO and their new disc continues their series of breathtaking sonic journeys. Butcher is largely responsible for the unified diversity that shapes the music. His first gesture, a lightning-fast razor-sharp downward flourish at medium volume, half multiphonic and half sheet of sound, sums up his approach to the saxophone as completely as any single moment can. As his playing becomes part of "Datum Cut 's increasingly complex fabric, his ease and facility in an ensemble setting becomes crystal clear; he is as comfortable in a quasi-composed environment as he is in a completely improvised setting, a trait as commendable as it is rare.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Pipestone; Mono Lake; Point Lobos; The Stob.
Personnel: John Butcher: sax; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums.
Tracks: Out Work; Work Shy; Work Flow; Work Up; Shift Work; Work In.
Personnel: John Butcher: saxophones; Eddie Prévost: percussion.
Architects of the North
Tracks: Datum Cut; Mirror; Core Cut; Magnetic North; Site and Setting.
Personnel: Burkhard Benis: drums; Martin Brandlmsyr: percussion; John Butcher: saxophones; Werner Dafeldecker: bass; Michael Moser: cello, computer.
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