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New Rhodri Davies on Another Timbre

John Eyles By

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Since 2000, harpist and electronicist Rhodri Davies has evolved continuously. He has metamorphosed from an extraordinary harpist—equally comfortable playing classical music, contemporary compositions or freely improvising—into an exploratory and innovative musician who continually extends the range of his playing and the language of his instrument.

Davies has happily extended his technique by deploying preparations, playing tabletop harp, using e-bows and electronics, thus broadening the range of his sound and music. He is a prolific collaborator. The list of musicians from across the globe he has played with reads like a Who's Who of improvised music.

At Another Timbre, Davies has found a record label that shares his exploratory nature and his relish for blurring boundaries. With one Another Timbre release to his name already, the fine quartet Hum (Another Timbre, 2007), the two 2009 releases below are due to be joined by a quintet, Midhopestones.

Annette Krebs / Rhodri Davies
Kravis Rhonn Project
Another Timbre
2009

This album records the first time Davies and guitarist Annette Krebs played together, at Krebs' apartment in Berlin in April 2008. For such an event, the two are well suited and sound comfortable together. The music they produce flows naturally with no awkward moments and plenty of variety.

Across the three tracks, Krebs plays guitar, recordings and mixing board. Her taped recordings include a selection of voices speaking in German or sometimes making vocal noises. The album opens with dialogue, instantly creating an air of intrigue. These taped voices occasionally interject throughout the album, adding a vaguely surreal feel. At times it feels like listening to a barely understood radio drama, albeit one with an engaging soundtrack. The occasional use by both players of electronic tones, often high frequency, washes of static and crackling sounds, enforces the sense of listening to a poorly tuned radio. In this regard, it is very reminiscent of Krebs' solo contribution to the Berlin Electronics compilation (Absinth, 2008)

The three tracks each have distinctly different moods and atmospheres, but cohere well as an album. Curiously, some of the sounds in "Ssronck" could almost be field recordings of fireworks so authentic do they sound. (Curiously? See below for explanation.) Taken as a whole, Kravis Rhonn Project must be judged a success. It creates its own distinctive, internally consistent sound world, one immediately identifiable as the work of Davies and Krebs.

Max Eastley / Rhodri Davies
Dark Architecture
Another Timbre Byways
2009

The music here is the unedited recording of a concert held at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, Berkshire, on Saturday 1st November 2008. Importantly, that date is four days before November 5th, Firework Night, when Britons remember Guy Fawkes' 1605 plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and mark the occasion by letting off fireworks.

Davies plays electric harp while Max Eastley plays arc, an instrument of his own making which he bows to produce drones. Both musicians are accompanied by four of Eastley's sound sculptures, which are powered by irregularly phased motors and produce unpredictable sounds. The recording opens with silence from which small sounds slowly emerge. The drones and hums gently ebb and flow, punctuated by quiet percussive sounds creating a delicate piece full of gestures.

Ten and a half minutes in, a resounding bang punctures the atmosphere. The bang initially sounds like a microphone being knocked. However, it was in the park immediately outside the concert hall and it signals the start of a firework display that continues loudly for the next ten minutes, with its sounds clearly audible inside. Punctuated by the unmistakable sounds of crackles and explosions, Davies and Eastley show themselves to be true troopers. They persist with their performance and turn the interruption to their advantage by integrating its sounds and rhythms into their music and reacting to them. Their previously muted soundscape becomes more percussive and dramatic.

Once the firework display subsides, the duo subtly recreate the beautiful soundscape they had constructed before the unplanned interruption. They expand it, giving it more depth and richness before bringing the piece to a satisfying conclusion.

Altogether, this is a truly remarkable document of an extraordinary occasion.


Tracks and Personnel

Kravis Rhonn Project

Tracks: Traguar; Jailom; Ssronck.

Personnel: Annette Krebs: guitar, objects, mixing board, tape; Rhodri Davies: electric harp, electronics.

Dark Architecture

Tracks: One track, untitled, 34' 33".

Personnel: Max Eastley: sound sculptures, arc; Rhodri Davies: electric harp.


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