Quietus Reviews

Birchall/Cheetham/Webster/Willberg – Plastic Knuckle
(Raw Tonk)

“Colin Webster’s Raw Tonk label celebrates its fifth birthday with a ragin’ all-dayer at London’s And Hundred Years Gallery in March. In the mean time, why not catch up on their releases, all of which can be checked out on their Bandcamp page Plastic Knuckle is the label’s 22nd release and brings the London-based saxophonist together with three key players from Manchester’s vibrant jazz and improv underground: guitarist Dave Birchall, drummer Andrew Cheetham and bassist Otto Willberg, all three of whom play in freeform psych outfit Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura.

Like many operating at the noisier end of free jazz, Webster and his collaborators are looking to escape the dead end of boring macho blare. Their approach is lean and agitated, as the players attempt to contain their ecstatic urges on the fidgety title track, and negotiate an uneasy calm on ‘Ghost Dance’. The latter sounds like an occult gamelan ritual, with Webster’s baritone sax prowling around the resonant chimes of Cheetham’s cymbals and Birchall’s behind-the-neck guitar. Rather than build to an obvious freak-out, the piece develops in a more rhythmic direction, with Cheetham moving in concentric circles around his cymbals. Willberg’s bass walks ‘Low Level Curlew’ back to the jazz citadel, but its progress is harried by razor wire guitar traps and saxophone strafes.

Birchall/Smal/Webster – Drop Out
(Astral Spirits)

Webster and Birchall hook up with Dutch drummer Rogier Smal on Drop Out, the latest tape from Austin’s Astral Spirits. The nervy skronk of the first side has Webster spitting out staccato phrases, while Birchall switches between high-end slide squall reminiscent of Borbetomagus’s Donald Miller, and lunging stoner riffage. Smal ramps it all up by hammering at his snare like a speed-addled carpenter, before dialling things back for a twitchy and atmospheric passage that ultimately takes off like peppercorns on a hot skillet. Side two sees the trio in a more contemplative mood, with Webster laying sustained tones over Smal’s pygmy percussion. The underlying tension explodes in the second half, with Birchall scrabbling around the fretboard as Webster’s sax stutters and jabs.”


Historically Fucked Tape out now!

Really pleased with this! First release from a new project attempting to improvise short songs:: in fact pop music:: with some degree of precision. Its in an edition of 27 copies then its gone. I’m playing guitar along with Greta Buitkute on vocals, Alecs Pierce on drumset and Otto Willberg on electric bass. Its a really nice excuse for me to think about improvising and some of my favourite band/guitar lines things at the same time: The Slits, DNA, God is my Co=pilot, the quiet guitar bits from the Nirvana song Milk It, The Raincoats, The Shaggs etc are all pleasantly looming there for me.

Playing a pickup…

New youtube EP showing a first exploration of straight to guitar pickup to metal sounds. Recorded straight into the recorder on headphones; using an extremity of volume and zero overdrive (an unusual feature for me!) to make the small interesting elements audible. This is part of a longer piece of research looking at ways to generate sound from pickups. The main approaches so far are using interference in the electromagnetic to generate sounds and using non-traditional methods of string playing as you hear here.