January 2020 – single & track reviews – Madrona’s ‘Alone with a Crow and a Pylon’; Madrona & Chris Cundy’s ‘Humming I’ and ‘Humming II’

3 Jan

Easing into the new year with some pastoral drones…

Here’s the elusive Cheltenham drone duo Madrona, about whom there’s little else to reveal at the moment. Their name’s taken from a fruiting Pacific coast shrub with no particular outstanding qualities, and even their precise location is questionable (Cheltenham appears to be where they congregate and play live, but it’s also possible that they just blow into town on these occasions, like friendly tumbleweeds). So it’s all in the music, then.

Madrona: 'Alone with a Crow and a Pylon'

Madrona: ‘Alone with a Crow and a Pylon’

Recent Bandcamp converts, Madrona have begun by mining their odds-and-sods file bank. ‘Alone with a Crow and a Pylon’ originally came out a couple of years ago on a Linear Obsessional compilation. It’s two minutes of oscillating, intentional generator drone; part reed harmonium, part electronics, with the former pedal clanks and the dipping pitches from the latter tying the music in with a feel of ageing but dogged technology. Mixed in are field recordings of birds and the outside air. The crow calls aren’t the standard scene-setting monotonous carks, but wrap around the instrumentation in varied and conversational tones. A single gabby corvid chatting, almost an enthusiast; a live counterpart to the stumbling pulse of the electrical machinery; a soloist working wittily against a conductor. (Sorry…)


 

Madrona & Chris Cundy: 'Humming I'

Madrona & Chris Cundy: ‘Humming I’

Simultaneously, Madrona are releasing a pair of interrelated tracks recorded with bass clarinettist Chris Cundy. ‘Humming I’, at twelve-and-a-half minutes, is the longer: dissonant layers of baritone and bassy reeds overlaying and weaving through each other at a pace that’s less leisurely than watchful. Cundy’s lines gradually evolve from single sustained stubbornnesses to sweet attenuated micro-melodies stretched out across protracted seconds. While sticking to their drones, Madrona nonethess rise to meet him; adding more consonant pitches to soothe the tension, or shorter rising drone parts as if reaching up.

By the halfway point, Cundy’s fully into jazz minimalist mode, toying with accenture, rallentando, manic flutters and pared harmonics across his short phrases, but increasingly with an undercurrent of blues. It ends somewhere gently celestial: Madrona’s tones resolved peacefully, Cundy playing on an overblown edge tone which nonetheless hovers somewhere serene.


 

Madrona & Chris Cundy: 'Humming II'

Madrona & Chris Cundy: ‘Humming II’

The nine-and-a-bit minutes Humming II is different from the outset. Warm air rather than disturbed currents, consonant hanging chords of harmonium which vary in their bulk and in subtle changes of intensity. Cundy’s tone may vary from falsetto or didgeridoo to hallucinated cattle or distant motorbike; but a brooding, urgent undercurrent of melody always wins through, whether or not it gets very far. On the other hand, Cundy’s quite capable of wringing the maximum impact out of a simple slow ascending scale, so even the simplest motifs have a surprising substance. It ends on a quiet clatter of keys, like the lashing of the loose end of a film reel.


 

Madrona: ‘Alone with a Crow and a Pylon’
(self-released)
Download-only single
Released: 3rd January 2020
Get it from:
Bandcamp

Madrona + Chris Cundy: ‘Humming I’
(self-released)
Download-only single
Released: 3rd January 2020
Get it from:
Bandcamp

Madrona + Chris Cundy: ‘Humming II’
(self-released)
Download-only single
Released: 3rd January 2020
Get it from:
Bandcamp

Madrona online:
Facebook Bandcamp

Chris Cundy online:
Homepage Facebook Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM YouTube Vimeo
 

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