Although (VU) is the first album on which guitarist Pascal Marzan and clarinetist & guitarist Alex Ward have collaborated as a duo, it comes as no surprise as (until Covid-19) each of them was a well-established repeat visitor to the late, great John Russell's monthly Mopomoso improvised music sessions at London's Vortex. (The YouTube clip below shows Marzan and Ward performing there together, in 2015, in a trio with cellist Alice Eldridge). In 2017, they were both among the musicians selected to appear at Russell's annual three-day improv festival Fête Quaqua (as was Eldridge), Russell being a close friend of each of them; he and Ward were near neighbours; he and Marzan often played together, recording one duo album. So, all things considered, (VU) had a certain inevitability about it.
Studio-recorded in London, in January and March 2019, the album features Marzan on his instrument of choice, a ten-string microtonal acoustic guitar, with Ward solely on clarinet rather than doubling on electric guitar as he sometimes does. The album's six tracks range in length from about seven-and-a-half minutes to just over fourteen, totaling sixty-nine minutes. Straight from the start, it is obvious that Marzan and Ward make an ideal duo; not only do the sounds of their instruments perfectly complement one another, so do their playing styles. Crucially, neither of them dominates or hogs the limelight; instead, there is a restrained dialogue throughout, conducted politely, with each player showing respect and paying attention to the other. Marzan never adopts the role of accompanist but interweaves with Ward's playing in ways which subtly shape it and his own. The end result is music which is simultaneously both mellow and stimulating, owing as much to the pairing as to each player separately. (VU) sounds like the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. Bravo!
Tipping Point; Wobbles; Salinisation; Dimming; Continental Drift; High Seas.