Tag Archives: music for textural guitar

April 2017 – upcoming ambient/textural gigs in London, Stroud and Berlin – two ‘A Gift for the Ephemerist’ shows with Andrew Heath, Anne Chris Bakker, Romke Kleefstra and Jan Kleefstra (14th & 15th); Luke Howard in London and Berlin (19th, 20th) plus Charlie Coxedge. Plus a nod to the Fat Out Festival in Salford (14th-16th)

6 Apr

Four upcoming shows from the more elegant, pianistic end of ambient (although guitar noise is never far away)…

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'A Gift For The Ephemerist', 14th & 15th April 2017

‘A Gift for the Ephemerist’: Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker + Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra

  • IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England, Friday 14th April 2017, 8:00information
  • Secret Garden @ The Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stratford Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 4AF, England, Saturday 15th April 2017, 12.00-3.00pm – free event – information here and here

“In 2015, an invitation from Aqueous synthesist Andrew Heath to Anne Chris Bakker (to play in the UK as part of a Resound performance) cemented a friendship and mutual admiration of each other’s music. Early the following year, Andrew visited Chris in the north of the Netherlands for a week of inspired improvisation – spending their time gathering field recordings, composing and of course, cycling. Combining Bakker’s beautiful bowed guitar and Heath’s quiet and minimal piano and textures, the collaboration has produced no less than two exquisite albums – ‘The Ephemerist’s Collection’ and ‘Lichtzen’. Pause and contemplate, for here are immersive driftscapes which shimmer and pulse with fragile, half-glimpsed melodies.

“Combining improvised dark-ambient with spoken word, Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra is the work of Anne Chris Bakker with fellow experimental guitarist Romke Kleefstra plus poet Jan Kleefstra. The trio have worked together for several years – following their debut album ‘Wink’ in 2009, they played throughout Europe and Japan. ‘The Wire’ wrote about the trio: “two guitarists construct an icy enclave out of frozen drones and amplifier crackle, a veritable Fortress Of Solitude whose isolation is further emphasised by the poet’s intimately close-miked tones and distant echoes, giving an acute impression of expanses and depths both internal and external.” K|B|K have also collaborated with Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Greg Haines and Machinefabriek.”




 

Note also that Kleefstra|Bakker|Kleefstra will be playing on the 16th April at the Fat Out Festival in Salford – a pretty stunning array of musical experimentalists, noiseniks, avant-jazzers and more, running between the 14th and the 16th, and featuring far more contributors and collaborators than I can hope to pin down in a single blogpost anymore, let alone a shared one. If you’re in the area and sufficiently clued up, you’ll know about this avant-art ferment already. If not, it’s not too late to jump in – all details are here.

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Luke Howard, 19th April 2017“Melbourne-born composer and pianist Luke Howard (joined by Australian jazz drummer Daniel Farrugia) presents a selection of solo piano and ambient works from his records ‘Sun, Cloud’ and ‘Two Places’.

“Luke studied classical piano as a child before graduating with honours from the Victorian College of the Arts. He was twice a finalist in the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition and has written music for both film and theatre. In 2013 he released the Australian Music Prize long-listed record ‘Sun, Cloud’. Luke’s score to ‘ Where Do Lilacs Come From ‘ won Best Music for a Short Film at the 2014 APRA/AMCOS Screen Music Awards. His second solo album, ‘Two Places’, was released in April 2016.

“Dividing his time between Europe and Australia, in recent years Luke has opened for Benjamin Clementine and Ben Frost, and performed with artists as diverse as Lior and Jeff Mills. His music has been described as “totally sublime” (‘Headphone Commute‘, February 2014), “absolutely heavenly” (Mary Anne Hobbs of BBC Radio 6, July 2013), and “cinematic in its approach” (‘The Age‘, October 2009).”



 
The month’s pair of dates:

  • Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7LJ, England, Wednesday 19th April 2017, 7.30pm (with Charlie Coxedge) – information here and here
  • Lido Berlin, Cuvrystraße 7, 10997 Berlin, Germany, Thursday 19th April 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here

In London, support comes from Charlie Coxedge (a.ka Charlie Cocksedge of Money), who’ll be performing solo sets of looped guitar music.



 
The London Howard/Coxedge show is another of the gigs repositioned following the sad and sudden closure of the Forge in Camden (see also the BC Camplight show at St Pancras Old Church the following day). It’s comforting to see that the artists can be accommodated so quickly rather than just having holes blown in their schedules; although it doesn’t entirely make up for the loss of a great venue and the closure of all of the work that went into building it up.
 

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Nordic musical stories, bass guitar filigrees, brass-laced soundscapes and howling animal men – ‘The Devil’s Purse’ stories at the Forge (22nd); Rothko and Ghost Mind at IKLECTIK (23rd); Ánde Somby at Café Oto (24th)

19 Jun

Three more engaging shows around the London fringes. Two have press releases which speak for themselves, while I wrote some babble for the other one (since it’s the first time I’ve covered one of the bands in a long time, while the other band turns out to be a trio who could use some more words spent on them)…

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Crick Crack Club Presents
Fairytales for Grown-ups – The Devil’s Purse
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Wednesday 22nd June 2016, 7:30 pm
information

“Beguiling, tricksy, highly-strung, and suspiciously helpful – the Little People are waiting in the shadows, beneath your feet, under the tables, and even in the cracks in the walls. They’re waiting to prove just how hard it is to tell that they are there… On hot summer nights their world is a breath away and on long winter evenings they have far too much time on their hands.

Dominic Kelly, Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson fuse storytelling performance and Nordic music in a wild journey into the cinema of the imagination. A lost traveller finds himself guided through the mountain mists; a farmer marries an apparently perfect wife; a drunk gambles with a purse that is forever full, and an anxious mother watches her child turn to skin and bone… Come spend some time in the company of Themselves, the Gentry Below, the Good Folk, the sylphs, the sprites, the fairies, and a labyrinth of stories.


 
“Dominic is a performance storyteller whose dynamic style has captivated audiences across the UK, Sweden, and around the world. He has performed in many prominent venues and festivals including The Barbican and the National Theatre in London, The Times Literature Festival, and on tour internationally from India to the Arctic Circle. Bridget and Leif form a duo whose interpretations of Nordic folk music take place in a filmic borderland of tunes and soundscapes. Leif challenges conventional ways of using the accordion and has distinguished himself on the Swedish folk scene as an instrumentalist, composer and arranger. Bridget studied folk music at Stockholm’s Kungliga Musikhögskolan: her band Stormsteg won Best Newcomer at the Swedish Folk & World Music Awards 2012.”


 

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IKLECTIK presents:
Rothko + Ghost Mind
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 23rd June 2016, 8.00pm
information

At IKLECTIK, a concert of two fascinating experimental acts creating powerfully visual and immersive music.


 
Aiming to explore the full sonic possibilities of his instrument (and inspired by the towering ‘Seagram Murals’ in the Tate Gallery), bass guitarist Mark Beazley founded Rothko in London during 1997. The initial lineup was a triple-bass trio with Crawford Blair and Jon Meade (of on-off London math-rockers Geiger Counter), which for three years clanged, droned, whirred and rumbled around its own constantly expanding iron-grey niche.


 
Creating great frowning arches of dark notes, torrential thrums of noise or transcendent etched outlines in the lower ranges, Rothko insisted on being judged as pure music, batting away any enclosing accusations of being post-punk, post-Gothic, post-rock, or anything similar. Somehow they managed to achieve this aim, defying all expectations by becoming universal and making inroads into the awareness, the perception and the affections of a wide and diverse audience. They found favour amongst the kind of sternly political art-music devotees who’d immerse themselves in ‘The Wire’, amongst the brain-knitting psychedelic leanings of London math-rock enthusiasts, and amongst the surprised followers of various indie bands who’d taken a shine to them and taken the opportunity to stick them onto a live bill. After three albums (and various EPs and collaborations) they bowed out in 2001 after a successful support slot with Porcupine Tree, playing to an audience of progressive rock fans.

 
While the original Rothko is arguably the best-known version, Mark maintained the Rothko name and core concept for another nine years across a solo presentation, a bass duo, an wide-screen ambient septet (which swallowed up consenting fellow travellers Delicate AWOL) and a more rhythmic quartet. While the various versions of the band were always underpinned by Mark’s resonant four-string underlay – a slatey burr or baritonic voice speaking out of the deep – the bass-guitar-only rule was relaxed to allow other instruments into the space such as flute, voice, electric guitar, piano and viola (while the synths and drums of the last and longest-lived lineup even occasionally hinted at a post-Can rumble). After Rothko, Mark took his skills and explorations solo, and formed new bass-friendly projects: Low Bias (with Pere Ubu’s syntheur Gagarin), Signals (with Phil Julian and textural guitarist Chris Gowers), Tetherdown (with Anne Garner and James Murray), and Rome Pays Off (in which he reunited with Crawford Blair)


 
Reactivated in 2015, a revived Rothko saw Mark re-teamed with ex-Delicate AWOL bassist and later solo recordist Michael D. Donnelly (his main partner in the post-2000 lineups). Together, they revisited their previous duo work while expanding it with additional lessons learned (in technique, in sonic attitude, in being an interpreter of feeling) during the five year break. A new EP, ‘Severed Tense’ arrived in September last year; a new album ‘Discover The Lost’ is now available on pre-order.


(recent Rothko track Truths And Signs)
 
This particular gig at IKLECTIK, however, showcases a newer Rothko lineup of Mark plus Johny Brown (the latter better known as the frontman of long-running post-punk poetry rockers Band Of Holy Joy, with whom Mark played during the Rothko layoff). Eschewing both past and recent work, they’ll be performing a set of all-new material from a work in progress – a new album called ‘A Young Fist Wrapped Around A Cinder For A Wager’, which they’re planning to record shortly.

While I might be behind the most recent developments, listening to the recent Beazley/Donnelly material has reminded me about what drew me to Rothko in the first place – their ability to grab such fascinating visual evocations out of the kind of low frequencies which you’d think would restrict them. From dirty crumbling bass notes they sketch a grumbling, majestic London ambience of half-forgotten post-industrial structure: the kind you find while turning down sidestreets running under grimy, half-forgotten Victorian railway viaducts or hosting the grand shells of factories. At least, that’s what they seem to do from where I’m listening. Mark apparently draws significant inspiration from sojourns in quiet rural locations far from the pressure and grime of great cities. It’s generally true that what any one listener draws out of Rothko tends to be only a few facets of the band’s mysterious kaleidoscope.

With roots in the Cheltenham Improvisers Orchestra, Ghost Mind is an experimental soundscape collaboration currently consisting of trumpet player Pete Robson, percussionist Stuart Wilding, and Jon Andriessen on heavily-treated guitar, combined with a background of found sounds gathered from around the planet. They present themselves as “a four-person trio” (the fourth member being the titular ghost). Live, they’re a magical concoction, with Stuart’s percussion exploits recalling the startling, fleeting and unforgettable work that Jamie Muir brought to various Derek Bailey bands and King Crimson in the 1970s, Pete’s trumpet journeying from jazz-mute musings and trombone impressions to free-improv mouthpiece splutters, and Jon’s heavily-processed guitar creating dense architectural fabrics and noise blocks but sometimes rising up with plangent, momentary clean licks.

Working together, Ghost Mind create aural experiences which suggest both the world traveller and the documentary edit suite. Their instrumental illustrations and interspersed field recordings link temples to shopping precincts or treetops hung with birdsong, or link toyshops to ping-pong matches; while further human-driven sounds flicker briefly through the mileu via interjections of harmonica and glockenspiel, water-warbling bird whistles, drum notes to shoe-scrapes and miscellaneous tickings. The fact that it all sounds musical throughout – as compelling to children and casual attendees as to dedicated deep listeners – is another of their creative triumphs.


 
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Tigmus presents:
Ánde Somby: The Animals Inside The Man And The Man Outside The Animals
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Friday 24th June 2016, 7.00pm
information

“The Sámi people are a transnational minority living in Sápmi, an area of land stretching across the borders of northern Scandinavia, Finland, and throughout the Kola Peninsula of north-western Russia. Yoik (also spelt joik or jojk) is the Sámi’s ancient and characteristic vocal art, with yoiks traditionally used to invoke a person, animal, place, or experience. You don’t yoik about something, you just ‘yoik it’.

Ánde Somby yoiks animals including salmon, grouse, bear, crow and mosquito, but his signature yoik is that of the wolf. The wolf yoik is a traditional yoik that Somby has developed with dramatic elements in an expressive performance. Somby has been an active musician since 1976 and has performed for royalty, heads of state and even at the funeral of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren! His many animal yoiks are inspired by the idea of transformation in the pre-Christian Sámi religion, when the noaidi (shaman) used yoiks to transform into an animal and back into a human. Somby is also a professor of law at the University of Tromsø and is engaged in Sámi social and political issues.

“In January 2016 Somby released the album “Yoiking With The Winged Ones”, recorded outdoors in Lofoten by the renowned British sound artist artist and field recorder, Chris Watson. The recordings took place in Kvalnes, mid June 2014, in a moment while the Arctic winds were having a little rest.”
 

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Machinefabriek + Graham Dunning/Colin Webster at IKLECTIK (16th); a host of electro-noise-drone-loop-texturalists explore ‘Mechanical Dreams Along The River’ at New River Studios (17th); V A L V E, Haymanot Tesfa, Mark Braby, Ed Dowie and some Lonesome Cowboys From Hell at Scaledown (17th)

11 Jun

Boosting the signal for some experimental/eclectic gigs in London this coming week…

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Machinefabriek ( photo by Pieter Jan Minnebo)

Machinefabriek ( photo by Pieter Jan Minnebo)

IKLECTIK presents:
Machinefabriek + Graham Dunning & Colin Webster
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 16th June 2016, 8.00pm
information

Machinefabriek is the alias of Rutger Zuydervelt, whose music combines elements of ambient, noise, minimalism, drone, field recordings and electro-acoustic experiments. His pieces can be heard as sonic environments for the listener to dwell in. Finding tension in texture, tone and timing, the result can be very minimalistic at first glance, but reveals itself upon closer listening. The devil is in the details. Rutger has collaborated (on record and/or live) with numerous artists including Colin Webster, Jaap Blonk, Aaron Martin, Peter Broderick, Frans de Waard, Steve Roden, Michel Banabila, Dead Neanderthals and Gareth Davis, amongst many others.

“The duo of Graham Dunning & Colin Webster perform improvised music avoiding conventional playing of their respective instruments. Graham Dunning uses a single turntable with dubplates of field recordings, dentistry tools and other objects to create crackling textures, tones and disjointed noise. On saxophone, Colin Webster uses a range of techniques to bring a palette of percussive and textural sounds, drawn tones, and raw, searing blasts. The duo have recorded 3 albums, with their 4th out in May on Tombed Visions, and have also recorded a collaboration with tuba player Sam Underwood.”

 

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An evening of assorted collective noises:

'Mechanical Dreams Along The River', 17th June 2016

D503 present:
‘Mechanical Dreams Along the River’: Echoes… Leytonstone + Norvoir + Precocious Mouse + Shabash + D503 + Noteherder & McCloud
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Friday 17th June 2016, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

Echoes… Leytonstone is a solo project from James Shearman, interested in hypnagogia and inspired by musicians like Nadja, The Angelic Process and Birchville Cat Motel – ambient and ethereal dronegazing, minimal bellowing cave music.


 
Norvoir is an ambient/drone project by Sam Saljooghi, using his guitar to slowly build and create vast atmospheric soundscapes from which you can immerse yourself in through his use of delay, reverb and looping.


 
Precocious Mouse will be performing a new live iteration of the ‘seance’ project. Using a combination of generative, microsonics and found sound, the experimental/electronic/glitch piece explores themes of communication and alienation.


 

“A secret rendezvous of witches and sorcerers, characterized by orgiastic rites, dances and feasting and using violin, piano and noise, Shabash brings spirits of the deep forests and multidimensional realms, allowing different worlds to meet and journey together.


 

D503 are Nicola Serra (beats, synthesizer, percussion) and Francesco Garau (guitars and manipulations), a North London-based duo aiming to explore drone, techno and industrial by using primitive and minimal sounds.

Noteherder & McCloud undertake investigations. A thick grey soup of electronic noise and field recordings enlivened by some remarkable soprano sax playing from Chris Parfitt. We watch from dark corners where synthesisers struggle against illegal parameters.”


 

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Finding out everything that’s happening at a event at central London eclecti-night Scaledown always tends to be a last-minute matter, but here’s what was scheduled a working week before the latest show…

The Orchestra Pit presents:
Scaledown #119: V A L V E + Haymanot Tesfa + Frank E. & JK-ee (Lonesome Cowboys From Hell) + Mark Braby + Ed Dowie
The King & Queen, 1 Foley Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 6DL, England
Friday 17th June 2016, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

“Coming up this month we have:

V A L V E is a progressive/avant-garde sound project from Knifeworld’s Chloe Herington, featuring an ever-morphing line up of conspirators and collaborators and rather a lot of bassoons, saxophones and found sounds.

“The beloved singer and artist Haymanot Tesfa brings her lyre to enchant us with songs of Ethiopia, ancient and contemporary, fresh and traditional.

 
“Yee-haw…. last year we put out the call for some cowpunk, and this coming Friday we get the grits courtesy of Frank E. & Blind ‘Gentleman’ JK-ee, two of the low-down psycho-reprobates that are Lonesome Cowboys From Hell. They will be regaling Scaledown with tales of family strife and cross-country travellin’ life.


 
“Co-Scaledown host Mr Mark Braby will perform one short story, one or two wee rhymes, two songs and an improvisation which will last until Duane the intern informs him that he has to stop.

Ed Dowie has been making music since the late 1990s, firstly as one third of Parlophone’s Brothers in Sound, then later a solo act under the name Redarthur. After a five-year hiatus which he spent living in University libraries & music technology labs making strange bleeps, he returned to the music industry to join The Paper Cinema, a puppetry/animation/theatre/music hybrid (that tours both internationally & in Hackney). Now performing and recording under his own name, he makes music which fuses experimental techniques with melodic aspirations.”


 

Tomorrow and this weekend in London and Watford – Chant Live! interactive gig; Silencio Sessions presents Surfing On Sinewaves; Daylight Music

4 Jun

Shortly after I posted news on voicelooper Georgina Brett’s Tuesdays Post concert on Sunday (which, incidentally, will be the last one for a while) she got in touch with news of two more gigs she’s playing tomorrow and on Saturday, so here’s the information on those (more or less in her own words).

Chant Live!, 5th June 2015

Chant Live! featuring Dave Barbarossa/Youth/Georgina Brett/Regina Martin/Dan Morrell/Jon Moss/Tom Nettlemouth/Jamie Grashion & very special guests, (Unit 5, Mirage Centre, First Way, Wembley, London, HA9 0J, Friday 5th June, 7.30pm)

The return of the legendary open source band! A showcase gig in a hidden private club venue in Wembley, ten minutes walk from Wembley Park tube – a bit of magic brought to the perimeter of the stadium itself. On stage will be myself, Dave Barbarossa (Adam & the Ants, Bow, Wow, Wow), Youth (Killing Joke, The Orb), Jon Moss (Culture Club) and Cosmic Trigger (Jamie Grashion and Tom Nettlemouth). There’s also pre gig talks about all things cosmic, the fractal universe and drumming with Gina Martin and the Queenswood Drummers. Great club sound system. An adventure!! Two drum kits, two bass guitars, djembe drum circle. Give voice, give hands, be the band: bring a drum or a shaker, percussion, chants, on-the-fly recordings, loops, mixes, mashes. Free event – for more info, call Guy on 07947 061257.

Silencio Sessions, 6th June 2015

Silencio Sessions, 6th June 2015

Silencio presents ‘Surfing On Sine Waves’ featuring Georgina Brett/Cos Chapman/James Conway/Tom Fox (LP Cafe, 173 The Parade, Watford, Hertfordshire WD17, Saturday 6th June, 6.30pm)

A night of looping, experimental and electronic improvised music.  As well as me there’s:

Cos Chapman, former oceanographer turned solo improvised electronics performer and member of both I Am Meat and Rude Mechanicals (there will be a fascinating video of how he creates his instruments from recycled materials).

James Conway, a Brighton based musician usually seen with electronic outfit Not These Tones: this time it’s an eclectic solo show on mixer, sampler and synth duties. No two performances by James are the same; it’s method in the moment, thrill in the risk.

Tom Fox, an experimental instrument builder who focuses on using reclaimed materials to create new and unique sounds and textures from common items, and will be presenting a film on his methods.

More info here – tickets £6.00 on the door.

Also just in, news on this weekend’s Daylight Music event…

Daylight Music 191: School of Noise + Sarah Angliss + Astra Forward (Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN – Saturday 6th June, 12pm to 2pm)

School of Noise are a collective of artists who run workshops for children, enabling them to make their own weird and wonderful instruments and experiment with sound art. They’re appearing live on stage for the first time performing their own pieces of experimental and electronic music. The group, made up of children ages 7-13, met at the School of Noise workshops where they explored a variety of approaches to creating, sculpting and listening to sound. The project, started by London musician Dan Mayfield, has been influenced by the works of Brian Dennis who ran the Shoreditch Experimental Music School in the late 1960’s.

Sarah Angliss is an award winning composer and performer whose music reflects her fascination with European folklore, faded variety acts and long-forgotten machines. Sarah is known for her highly unusual stage set which mixes theremin, saw and ancient instruments with the ensemble of musical robots she’s designed and built to work with her on stage.

Astra Forward is a Brighton based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. A raw vocal talent, she combines acapella, synth organ drones, ethereal harmonies and alternate guitar tunings into her performances. As a singer and keyboardist in The Robot Heart and Diagrams, Astra has toured throughout Europe and the U.K, supporting the likes of Gomez, Ben Ottewell, Athlete and St. Vincent. At this concert, she will play a solo set of her intricate and beautifully vulnerable electronica.

Alex Hall/Elephant returns to create an improvised guitar soundscape in between acts this week.

Free entry, but donations are (as ever) encouraged.

REVIEW – Michael Bearpark/Peter Chilvers: ‘Thin Air’ album, 1999 (“scraping waves and langorous tides”)

10 May
Michael Bearpark/Peter Chilvers: 'Thin Air'

Michael Bearpark/Peter Chilvers: ‘Thin Air’

I could take the easy route first and say that if you’ve heard ‘No Pussyfooting’, you’ve more or less heard ‘Thin Air’. But that’d be a weaselling statement: technically correct but still untrue, and also of neither use nor value to you. As if I said that the most important defining characteristic of an apple was that it was round and green, and thought that that was all there was to it.

Yes – it is true that the Bearpark/Chilvers album is very Fripp & Eno (or a close musical cousin to Richard Pinhas). Its five tracks (titled, without fuss, One to Five) make up a little under an hour of droning, buzzing, looped Les Paul guitar textures and minimal synth. It comes in scraping waves and langorous tides, sometimes broken by a tightly-controlled welling of overdriven melody. The Frippertronics comparison is more than appropriate: it’s exact. Here is the same methodology, and similar equipment – although Peter Chilvers’ digital keyboards and hard-drive recording are far removed from Eno’s primitive VCS3 and Revoxes back in 1972.

But with that said, we can move on to the distinctions. It’s the same methodology, yes – but with a different intent. Fripp & Eno were taking a vacation from disciplined, cunningly constructed early ’70s art-rock when they made ‘No Pussyfooting’. While they’ll have absorbed the same influences second-hand (not least through Fripp and Eno themselves), Bearpark and Chilvers’ active roots lie in the lusher ambient fields of the ’80s, the small home thoughts of the ’90s, and elsewhere. For feeding grounds there’s been the avant-garde songwriter croon of Samuel Smiles (of which, together, they make up half the line); the ethereal, tranquillised nu-folk of Chilver’s Alias Grace project; and the remarkable extended electrophonic improvising of Darkroom in which Michael coaxes and abuses guitar, and in which Peter occasionally guests on subliminal bass noises.

Consequently, ‘Thin Air’ simply doesn’t have the same flavour as ‘No Pussyfooting’ – although there’s a case to be made for its relationship with the subsequent ‘Evening Star’ centerpiece Wind On Water, or indeed with David Sylvian’s Fripp-starring Gone To Earth. The music here is more accepting of meditative flows and of fallings-into-place than Fripp & Eno’s passive-aggressive merger of science and chance, where the tones bristled like affronted scholars even as they delivered their assertions. New Age it’s not, though; finding a rich and revealing depth as it surrenders to the floating moment. As One progresses, Peter’s keyboards become more predominant as well as more sacramental in tone; swelling in sermon-ish washes or setting out tiny, meditative piano lines like an English Roedelius. Three sees him levitate a celestial synth in a bathe of high, light sounds over a sawing, working guitar loop, ending in what feels oddly like a High Church benediction.

Michael Bearpark – though he’s a Fripp-ish soundpainter for sure – has a very different musical personality. Dirtier, more repressed and seething than Fripp’s near-religious passion and pilgrim’s drive to grace, his slow-hand playing is actually more bloody-handed; sometimes leaning on notes as if he was trying to crush them, or to push their heads underwater and drown them. And there’s a strong element of filtered, chemically refined blues welling through the music; an ultra-distilled moan of frustration and clenched force, adding an extra human bite to the industrial friction sounds that gnaw gently in the background. All of the above makes his ultimate surrender to the trance more affecting.

What’s most revealing is what the two musicians give to each other in this context. Michael’s drawn-out, demanding focus draws Peter away from his tendencies to sober prettiness. In turn, Peter’s thoughtful but assertive calm (the pastor to the guitarist’s restless congregation) helps Michael to allay his own wayward illbient tendencies. And fortunately the result’s a compound of the two, rather than a dilution. If Two has the tightest discipline (a deep comforting growl of a bass loop, a starlit synth chord journeying from space to space in the stretched weave of guitar patterns), Four is a fall-apart – a dissolving narcosis of disintegrating guitar arpeggios over the looping waft of a nearly-was organ. Five is an absent farewell, looped up and down like a slow-motion roller coaster at midnight. The attention is elsewhere, but it’s gently captivating.

Yes, in terms of equipment lists and step-by-step instructions, this is something you’ve heard before. But one thing Michael Bearpark and Peter Chilvers prove on ‘Thin Air’ is that, whatever the gear and gizmos, this kind of process music is formed first and foremost by personalities – not by equations, function maps or manuals.

Michael Bearpark/Peter Chilvers: ‘Thin Air’
PeopleSound, 270370 (no barcode)
CD-R-only album
Released: 1999

Get it from:
The original PeopleSound CD-R is now long-deleted and best obtained second-hand. The album has been reissued as a CD-R by Burning Shed.

Michael Bearpark online:
Homepage Facebook Last FM

Peter Chilvers online:
Homepage Facebook Soundcloud Last FM YouTube

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