I’m walking repeatedly around a square of four underpasses, making an air recording with my trusty zoom while pushing my son in his buggy. Overhead you can hear the traffic at the junction of Chester Road and Edge Lane. These tunnels will be filled in soon when the junction is redesigned. The underpasses must date to the widening of Chester Road into a 3 lane highway and the building of Stretford Mall. Currently the underpasses are the only safe way across the road at this junction; after there will be a roadcrossing. They need a little love, some bulbs need replacing in the lights, murals made by local schools and Gorsehill Studios are not in bad shape, some of the paintwork elsewhere could be redone. When we first moved here I realised that the underpasses made me feel at home. This is to do with a specific memory of the underpass between Leicester train station and Granby Street. This is now filled in and replaced by a roadcrossing. This one was pure old school, stank of piss, often had buskers in it, always had a couple of homeless guys seeking shelter. It was the link between the city centre proper and the train station on London Road. As schoolboys we used to walk up from the clocktower where the 61a dropped us, down Gallowtree Gate, up Granby Street through this underpass, past the station then left down Conduit Street. There on the corner was Sheehan’s Music, a few doors down was Ultima Thule (a record shop specialising in prog and krautrock). Inbetween the two and about 5 floors up was our destination; Stayfree Music, where we would rent by the hour rehearsal rooms with huge crackling amps and flabby drums (we didn’t know you could tune drums til much later) to jam out the two chord structures and melodies we used as songs. At very quiet moments just before sleep and when I’m very tired I can hear a D in my left ear and one an octave lower in the other. In fact its quiet at home now in the daytime and as I’m thinking; writing about my tinnitus it comes into focus and I can hear the notes come into focus. Those jams at Stayfree were the beginning of about a decade of exposing myself to very loud music all the time. I’ve worn earplugs the last decade which has helped. I’m back at home now listening to the recording I made in the Stretford underpasses. What I thought I would hear which was the slight ebb and flow in volume of traffic on entering and exiting just isn’t there. What marks the tunnels is Alex doing baby shouts to hear the short reverb. He does it on entering each tunnel and then stops when we are in the brief bit of open air between.
Stretford February-April 2017
New release out today from myself along with Sam Andreae, Otto Willberg with art and design by Mio Ebisu. This was recorded last July with Shakeen Abu Hamdan at Ouse Studios in Leeds. It was a really nice session and we felt like we had began to crave out a very interesting space for improvising in a really wide range of modes while maintaining an overall coherence to the sound. We’re really pleased with the record and it proved to be a great jumping off point for the 2 weeks we just spent in Japan on our AIDF funded trip working with a wide range of really amazing artists.
Its a joint release through Vernacular and Heavy Petting in Manchester. You can also pick up copies at Ftarri in Tokyo.
Missed this at the time but I was interviewed by Robyn Williams for the science programme on Australian national radio when we did our residency at the National Media Museum in Bradford 2 years ago. Looking forward to working with the museum again over the next few months on a new project that opens in the summer.
Really pleased to that the second album we recorded with the ABC Trio (myself, Andrew Cheetham and Sam Andreae) has been released on CD with splendid artwork in a DVD style case by our long term supporters over at the Tombed Visions in Manchester. We’re super happy with the record! If you want a copy drop me an email here davidmbirchallatgmail.com or buy thru the label direct. I’ll also have copies of this and other releases at upcoming gigs in Japan, Holland and Manchester!
“Super-charged scrimple-skriffle improv coming at you mixed in, depending on your view, (almost) mono or 3-way stereo.
But what’s going on?
Dave Birchall plays granite-flecked guitar in the left speaker, Javier Saso spills slippery, silvery lapsteel in the right speaker and Nicolas Dobson sprays wild, wild violin all over the place.
Side one is a string piece for three players and it waxes happily, darting in and out of focus like a lazy eye would. Contributions are in part clotted and meshed (like a scab) and independently driven. Imagine walking three energetic hounds, each with their own digging, burying, pissing mission. Their colourful leads are soon a wrapped-up maypole binding your arms and hands. Got it?
Now replace the noble hounds with these three improv-dudes and the dog-specific missions with group-mind blankness and collective musical mischief and you’ve got the perfect picture!
While the pace is athletic there’s always room for a ruminative cul-de-sac, a wet sniff about a single tone or blunt-thumbed technique. And as I listen I pass through several phases myself: chin-stroking on the non-idiomatic tip but also horn-throwing on the sexy electric eruption.
On side two I briefly land in a thoughtful strung-out lake but get distracted by amp-pops and bright lead-crackle. The tension mounts as our three players riff on the giant nothingness that exists right at the point of the horizon; saw, saw, sawing away, whipping up a gentle typhoon that bursts with bloated rain. It doesn’t take long to plinkety-plonk and things end with that ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ intro-played inside out and over ice.
This is what it sounds like when Slash cries.”
Birchall/Cheetham/Webster/Willberg – Plastic Knuckle
“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
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.”