There may well be no other saxophonist so determinedly pushing his instrument forward, so ruthlessly dispensing with decades of baggage, than John Butcher. This can work both for and against the music that results. In the latter case, there's the risk of performing what turn out to be, essentially, science experiments (not all that surprising considering Butcher's prior career as a professor of physics). But when it works, as I've encountered in live performance and as I think occurs several times on this disc, the outcome can be marvelous in a way that's rarely heard.
This is a solo recording, although three of the tracks utilize overdubbing. Two basic techniques are employed: close miking, wherein the mike is attached directly outside the bell of the instrument, thus enabling it to pick up all manner of sounds including percussive and breath tones with extreme fidelity; and, most impressively, amplified feedback. This involves the mike inside the bell feeding directly to an amp which is then miked for the recording. On tracks like "streamers", Butcher only manipulates the tenor's keys and does so in extraordinarily subtle fashion, generating discreet feedback tones that are utterly beguiling. Listeners would be hard-pressed to identify the source as a saxophone; instead it sounds like some mutant, electronic gamelan. However, as in his best work, the virtuoso technique works as an equal partner with a song structure, abstract though it may be, that glues the piece together into a very satisfying full performance. Other tracks mass several saxes together, with feedback, creating gales of sound, sometimes clearly interacting with the resonance of the room.
On the science-experiment side, there are a few cuts that seem only to scratch the surface of a given technique and leave the piece alone and unsheltered to fend for itself. Some such numbers, like the opening "swan style" are harsh enough to put off all but the most intrepid listener. But anyone at all interested in charting the further evolution of the saxophone should hear this recording (issued in a limited edition of 600) for a vivid picture of one extremely strong line of inquiry.
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