On March 6th 2020, Steve Beresford
celebrated his seventieth birthday with a jam-packed three-day residency at London's renowned venue Café Oto, under the fitting heading "Piano, Noise, Music and Toys." (It was the last such event at Oto before its Coronavirus lockdown.) Across the residency, audiences saw a cross-section of performances which illustrated the breadth of Beresford's talents and interests; he played in separate duos with violinists Satoko Fukada and Mandhira De Saram, and in a trio with comedian Stewart Lee performing John Cage
Violinist Angharad Davies
was in attendance at Café Oto, but she did not perform with the birthday boy; instead, she had put together and released this limited-edition CD "in celebration of Steve Beresford's significant birthday"and it is a very fine present indeed. Back in 2014, Aberystwyth-born Davies was looking for interesting places and ways to bring her music back to the town of her birth; when a friend mentioned that the nearby Capel y Graig had amazing acoustics, Davies popped in to have a look and was hooked. She asked if she could return with Beresford and Simon Reynell, to record in and with the space; that happened on October 9th 2014 but, for various reasons, the recording remained in her computer until Beresford's 70th galvanised her into action...
Across seven tracks, ranging in length from three to fourteen minutesfifty-six-minutes, altogetherBeresford and Davies improvised, with the resonant acoustics of Capel y Graig contributing greatly and demonstrating why Davies chose the venue. The album carries no instrumental credits for either player, but photographs of the two in the venue show a bass drum with a tambourine and a couple of gizmos on top of it, as well as Beresford seated at the venue's harmonium and also at a table which most probably carried his usual range of toys, gadgets etc. The album also has occasional evidence of piano. Davies played violin throughout.
The ten-minute opening track, "Datsain" ("Reverberation"), sets a high standard for the album; Beresford constructs a dense, elaborate soundscape which is underpinned by the drum rolling and prolonged electronic sounds from other sources; heard on its own, this would have made enthralling listening but it also features Davies' violin on top, playing a series of tones which stand out clearly because of their higher frequencies. As always, the violinist strikes an ideal balance between repetition and variety so the music has structure but never risks getting into a rut. There is ample evidence of the two players responding to complement one another to keep the music fresh and lively.
After the shorter "Melysber" ("Melodious"), on which Beresford makes greater use of his toys table, "Crochleisio" ("Roar") revisits similar territory to the opener. However, such revisiting does not mean the tracks sound similar; on the contrary they are distinctly different when heard back to back, a pattern which is repeated across the album. The end result is an album on which every track has its own distinct identity, and it is impossible to pick a favourite. Why choose? Listen to all of them...
The album's closing track features violin and harmonium together, playing the traditional piece "Iechyd o Gylch" ("Health All Round"), its lilting melody lingering long after its three-minutes are done. A beautiful way to end a fine album.
("Clamour / Uproar / Commotion
") is the first album release to feature Beresford and Davies together. Based on the evidence here, it deserves to be the first of many. Fittingly, the Welsh title also translates as "trust."
Datsain; Melysber; Crochleisio; Gwth; Adlach; Seinfawr; Iechyd o Gylch.