Away from their usual instruments — the harp for Rhodri Davies, the cello for Mark Wastell — these two musicians venture into the land of electronics and abstract sound composition of a kind they are not habitually known for. Filled with static and textural layering, embedded silences and noise, in a filigree weave of sound, Live in Melbourne is one long piece, 37 minutes of electric fun.
Both of these musicians have been on the London contemporary music scene for a while and have played together in various settings, notably a trio with bassist Simon H. Fell, called IST. Although they have specialized in improvisation, electronics have not been central to their approach. So this live recording shows Davies' and Wastell's skills, their ultra-sensitivity to the finest nuance of sound and gradations of silence and exceptionally attentive listening, in a completely different context.
A broad hum from low-fi electronics sweeps like a long wave through the set, while all kinds of intriguing crackles, hisses, and percolations ride atop the evolving electric pulse. This is a musical event that makes for a fantastical aural soundscape, and one finds them self imagining all kinds of narrative sequences, or images evoked by the sounds that are at once concrete in their unique physical presence, yet abstract in their interactivity and non-programmatic nature.
That's the intriguing thing about this kind of music — it is made up of very physical qualities (sound waves), but spurs the imagination in non-predictable ways, at times resembling a series of fragmented bird calls coming through a jungle of static, or a high-pitched long trumpet signal hanging in the air with a vaguely foreboding quality. Then there's the impression of a cricket choir, the wafting of a pure solo flute, the revving of a fan, chiming of a telephone, and all kinds of substratum of effects, with brusque low-volume booms entering alongside ringing modulations, throttling sounds like an outboard motor, and so on and so forth. The overall effect if surprisingly soothing, not unlike what a harp and cellist might concoct.
The passage of time, inevitably, becomes a subject as the sound waves ebb and flow, morph and fade. A slew of objects listed in the album jacket keep one's ears perked as the seconds fly, including charcoal, ceramic tile, velvet material, sand paper, wire wool, singing bowls. Added to the live electronics are prerecorded bites of harmonium, as well as sounds sourced via mini-disc and CD players, along with digital delay pedals and contact mics that pick up all the nuances of textures. The session culminates in a coda of high intensity, provided by the surging power possibilities of the media explored sensitively, making this an intriguing listen.
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