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Clive Bell & Sylvia Hallett: The Geographers

John Eyles By

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I suspect that a blindfolded listener dropped anywhere into this album would be unlikely to identify it as a product of the London improvising community. Guesses would most probably centre around ethnographic field recordings made way out east, rather than recordings made in Gateway Studios by two Brits.

Clive Bell and Sylvia Hallett have very different histories but are highly compatible. He favours exotic wind instruments, which he studied extensively in Japan and Thailand. She does use such instruments as the sarangi (a 35-string bowed Indian fiddle) and anklung (a tuned Indonesian bamboo shaker), but is just as likely to play a bicycle wheel or a cheap saw bought at her local hardware shop. They share a propensity for quiet understatement and space in their music that gives it a reflective, even meditative quality. Sometimes this is explicit, as on the closer, "Love for Shale, with its chanting in a foreign tongue; more generally, it pervades the entire album. As a result, this album is an accessible and easy-on-the-ear entry point to improvised music.

The Geographers may be the album's seriously jokey title, but it is too mundane a description of Bell & Hallett; better would be "the adventurers or "the explorers —such is the breadth of their horizons.


Track Listing: Shrugging into Spring; Flying on the landing; With the book propelled against the horse

Personnel: Clive Bell, Cretan pipes, harmonica, khene, pi saw, shakuhachi, stereo goathorns, whirling bat drum; Sylvia Hallett, anklung, bicycle wheel, electronics, mbira, sarangi, saw, viola, violin, voice

Title: The Geographers | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Emanem


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