New tape out now with a trio featuring myself, Alan Wilkinson and Andrew Cheetham, recorded live at Islington Mill by Fran Comyn in April 2017. It came right at the end of a really nice period of playing; a few days before I’d been doing daytime jams with Rogier Smal at an opening at The Cobra Museum outside Amsterdam and then immediately before that was a two week trip to Japan with Sam Andreae and Otto Willberg; it’d been great to be playing alot everyday in different situations and you can hear all that in this tape (and other recordings from this period…) there’s literally no unecessary notes or sounds anywhere on it for my money!
“Live at Ftarri” is a new release of “Raw Tonk Records”. Album was recorded by four jazz masters – Sam Andreae (saxophone), David Birchall (guitar), Toshimaru Nakamura (no input mixing board) and Otto Willberg (double bass). All fourth musicians have interesting and evocative playing manner, they also are creative and famous members of contemporary avant-garde jazz scene. Sam Andreae is a great saxophonist. His improvisations are totally based on avant-garde jazz, free improvisation, musical experiments, spontaneous and vivacious solos and especially expressive playing manner. David Birchall is a guitarist. His improvisations are based on synthesis of avant-garde jazz, bebop, post-bop, hard-bop and various elements of rock styles. All these elements are gently combined together in one place. He tries out new and unusual ways of playing – original and inventive musical decisions effect whole sund of his improvisations. Toshimaru Nakamura is Japan improviser, who is active at avant-garde jazz and Japan onkyo scene. His music is based on organic synthesis of different music styles – rock, Japan traditional music, avant-garde jazz, various styles of contemporary Japan improvisation, electronics, computer sounds and many other elements are fused together. He also use a mixing board to create nusual and interesting sound, special effects and original timbres. Field recordings, imitations of nature sounds, computer and electronic devices sounds and many similar elements are used in his compositions. Musician is active at the scenes of various music styles – he plays along with rock, free-jazz, Japan onkyo and many other artists. Otto Wilberg is a double bassist. His music is based on sounds experiments, free improvisation, vivacious, dynamic and expressive playing manner and colorful changes of styles, musical expressions and other elements. He masterfully fuses together avant-garde and modern jazz, bebop and free-jazz, hard-bop, fusion, the intonations of contemporary jazz and other elements.
The music of this album has evocative and innovative sound. The musicians are trying out different ways of playing – by using dozens of different extended playing techniques they create huge variety of strange and weird timbres. The musical pattern is rich, bright, modern and expressive. It’s based on Japan and Western Europe rhythms, classical and Asian music harmonies and chords, remarkable and interesting melodies and innovative special effects. The musicians are full of modern ideas and trying inventive and creative musical decisions. Their improvising is free and spontaneous, based on colorful and unexpected musical decisions. Saxophone melodies bring expressive, loud, sharp and effective sound. The melodies are full of remarkable and marvelous solos, virtuosic and wild rapid arpeggios and passages, dynamic rhythmic, sharp, loud, powerful and turbulent blow outs, free and spontaneous solos amd unusual timbres. Different moods are fused together – after vivacious, joyful, playful and lengthy solos there comes rigorous, sharp and aggressive blow outs, shrieky solos or silent and peaceful improvisations. Guitar melodies have contrasting and expressive sound. It’s also has bright and rich sound – expressive solos, weird timbres, colorful stylistic waves, synthesis between avant-garde jazz and modern jazz, especially bebop and hard-bop, bring loud, innovative and interesting sound to this compositions. The intonations of various rock styles also are heard here from time to time, but it’s soft and mild. Guitar solos are based on free improvisation, spontaneous solos and basic elements of avant-garde jazz for the most of the time. Double bass melodies are evocative and expressive. Passionate solos, deep, rigorous or silent and soft repetitive tones, colorful pizzicatto, expressive and virtuosic solos, improvisations in the spot, dynamic and constantly changing rhythmic – all these elements interesting and vivacious sound and keep a solid and marvelous rhythmic section. Special effects by electronics and no input mixing board is the main coloristic element of the compositions. It’s highly effects whole sound of the compositions. Synthetic sounds of computer devices, special effects, sonic system experiments are highly contrasting with natural, soft and warm acoustics and create effective, interesting and colorful background. The timbres of various instruments are recorded and modified – unusual, strange, weird and interesting sounds effect whole sound of the improvisations. The music of this album has expressive, dynamic, innovative and remarkable sound.”
Tuesday 29th May
@ Peerhat, Manchester
you can buy advanced tickets for this one here:
Tuesday 5th June
@ St. Margaret’s Church, Manchester £5-£7 on the door
Tuesday 26th June
@ Peerhat, Manchester £5 on the door
Big Thanks to Gert at Opduvel for his careful listening and writing about the Live in Beppu CDr!
My favourite brief quote:
“It therefore requires open-mindedness about what music is, but for those who hold the opinion that sound is music, this is an interesting and very fascinating improvisation.”
The review is in Dutch here:
And a rough googletranslate here:
“Making music in public does most musicians from a stage or simply on the street. Record cases also have instores. The English trio consisting of Otto Willberg (bass), Sam Andreae (saxophone) and David Birchall (guitar) played on April 18, 2017 in the record store ReNTReC in the Japanese city of Beppu, the result of which is recorded on CD-R. It is not a usual instore, as the word ‘usual’ does not apply to any of the music produced by the trio.
The three musicians come from Manchester and are no strangers in the English free improvisation scene. The gentlemen are content to seek or exceed musical boundaries. Anyone who loves an experimental voyage of discovery will find plenty to his liking at Live in Beppu. Everyone else: be warned. This is music that is the prevailing laws of what music is and which merely shakes sound, defiance and strict beliefs.
Because it concerns three musicians who at the same time investigate the unconventional possibilities of their instrument. The three of us occupy a small space, the English go on musical exploration, without appointments, without soil and without a safety net. It is a game of finds and sounds that has no direction and does not tell a coherent story. Perhaps not even a story at all.
The free improvisation of the trio is not recorded in a studio and you notice that, because ambient sounds, such as the voices of children and passing trains, can be heard and are therefore part of the music. Coincidence is not an unimportant factor, just like humor, because playful situations arise consciously and unconsciously. Furthermore, there is no tension build-up, there are no melodic lines and no rhythmic patterns. It involves experimenting with sound, scanning, reacting, listening and anticipating. The word ‘easy’ is not in the vocabulary of the trio.
Anyone who has read this after reading the book and decides to listen, will wait for a wonderful and exceptional musical company that captivates through playfulness, research drive and simply being there. It therefore requires open-mindedness about what music is, but for those who hold the opinion that sound is music, this is an interesting and very fascinating improvisation.
With everything you can make music. A guitar string does not have to be on a guitar, you can also swing around with it. A saxophone is not necessarily a wind instrument. In the cup of a saxophone you can, for example, put a can, which can be fastened with elastic and then put back and forth between the can and the cup, so that percussive noises are produced. A bass can also be played by holding a basin against the strings and you can play that pelvis with a bow. This bow can also be clamped between the strings, after which you produce sound by moving the bow up and down. Also a guitar can be played with a bow and that does not necessarily have to be on the strings but can also be on the side of the instrument. You can knock out the cleaning cloth of the saxophone, and this also creates a sound.
They are ideas that most will not come up with, but this trio does and does implement those ideas. The result is playful, contrarian and percussive music, unhampered by any musical convention. The instruments sax, guitar and bass form the basis but rarely sound the usual way. This is not only fascinating to watch (see the video below), but also to listen to, even if the improvisation takes more than an hour. This is tasty food for the truly adventurous music lover.”
New CD out now on Raw Tonk Records! Live recording from a gig at Ftarri in Tokyo, Japan April 2017 featuring:
Sam Andreae: saxophone
David Birchall: guitar
Toshimaru Nakamura: no input mixing board
Otto Willberg: double bass
“Young, rebellious improvised music from the very center of the United Kingdom, continued! Manchester in attack, not only in the football dimension!
A brave rule of DIY (do it yourself), gray cartons, compacts, cd-ry, vinyl single, freedom, freedom, anarchy, improvisation – how beautiful!
The tiny label run by guitarist David Birchall – Vernacular Recordings *) – was just sixth catalog item. We will look at it in detail, and then also on the previous items, and one will only recall, because it has already been reviewed in these pages.
Sam Andreae / David Birchall / Otto Willberg Live in Beppu (VR 006, 2018)
Beppu, Japan, April 2017; Andreae himself – alto saxophone, Otto Willberg – double bass, David Birchall – electric guitar; 1 fragment, nearly 62 minutes.
An improvised environment, three musicians, a bar, a yard next to it, children, adult voices. City sounds, trains, planes, instruments and everything that musicians have at hand. Microbiology of sound, the immensity of specific field recordings. In the purely musical aspect, a lot of individual, broken phrases, unfinished narrations, sentences finished in half a word. Improvisation of abandonment, punk dirt, anarchy of phonic decomposition, software nonchalance, the ethos of the contestant. 6 minutes, the first passing train, like a counterpoint to the rebellious story. A lot of humor, artistic banter. Equality of all sounds, each stage behavior. 9-10 minutes, a bit of psychedelia straight from the guitar’s neck, supported by a windmill imitating non-existent air conditioning, it does well to this collective play in unobvious phonics solutions. A narrative in which dissonance and the insistence of deconstruction are more important than making a coherent story (15 minutes, another train). 18-20 minutes, a bit more music straight from typical instruments, guitar, saxophone and double bass. When improvisation goes to play, what happens around within the sounds of the outside world seems to be even more interesting. 28 minutes, the musicians descend to the level of silence and everyone listens to the sounds that are created outside the stage. Waiting for what will happen there … Sounds of silence, children, voices, the roar of air (smog?). Music that is really concrete – crackles, abrasions, buzzing. 32 minutes – we regulate the watches, because another train passes by. A mysterious background is probably the intended effect. Dog toys to use! We love anarchy! Objects tremble, groan and whine. A real surf in the saxophone tube (35 minutes). After 40 minutes, there would be more music in our ears again, even a bit of noise. Andreae in spite of all conventions of saxophonists, Willberg, who likes to hang on a double bass, a Birchall seeking, tireless, it is from his side that the most interesting things come to us. 46 minutes, the narrative almost stops again. We listen to children. Noise and minor feedback. Waiting, lazy tension. Sonorism not connected to the power side. Fussy sounds. Forgotten love stories, onomatopoeia. Anarchy seems to dominate over improvisation. 57 minutes, microbiology returns, water drips from the ceiling of the sky, it’s probably an attempt to quell the ambivalence of the reviewer. Punk’s Not Dead? Indeed! We are looking for a punch, and life goes on. Another train, already on the last straight of this performance. We are left alone with the sound of the world around us. It’s probably not a concert, rather street street improvisation. Live in Beppu!
The previous album of this trio, studio A Hair In The Chimney (VR 004, 2017), was reviewed here.
David Birchall / Colin Webster Gravity Lacks (VR 002, 2016)
London, May 2015; David Birchall – electric guitar, Colin Webster – tenor saxophone; 4 fragments (two solo, two duet), 57 minutes.
Colin solo! Deeply immersed in the tube, dancing on its edge, jumping between the jets, screaming in the middle of the mouthpiece. Sonorism at the peak of development. A slim, inquisitive narrative, care for the quality of each embouchure. Tenor saxophone in a compulsive march after yours. Precision, technique, control over emotions – as usual with this music model. And these inborn tendencies to punk dirt in sound! Applause!
David solo! The strings and amplifiers draw a consistent, slow, delicate story. A pinch of onrism between the strings, the metallic charm of each … sound. Step by step, a touch behind the note. The narrative loops up and grows, brilliantly engages and grimaces. 5 minutes, a type of rock, somewhat noisy incidents. Shortly thereafter, a quick return to the original state. Much foni in a unit of time, as if we were listening to a duet or even a guitar trio. The real ferria of electric guitar colors in the arduous process of improvisation. David perfectly controls the instrument, including the emotions of the reviewer. Precise volt with a hint of Hindu ragi somewhere in the middle of the sound box, on the last strings of the strings. Filings of genius on the fingerboard! Perfectly! 12 minutes brings further scraps of noise, as well as particles of silence suspended between them. A real poem of improvisation for solo guitar! For the finale, the molecular display of the grille sliding on the grille that puts the strings in micro resonance. It’s like a guitar whistling! On the last straight dance dipped into the ears in the nanobiology of psychedelia. Strictly Wonderful!
Duo 1! Masqued, though slightly fuzzy sonoratics of the tube and strings. Shorts, kisses, guitar loops. Fast turn to noise incidents. Colin hangs on the nozzles, David as if he was continuing the excellent exhibitions from the previous solo part. The Siamese brothers fall into each other like butter. Routes of both musicians compatible with pain. Improve crazy noise, improve slow motion! What ever you want! Descent into silence is lost in lazy psychedelia, which catches noise like a flypaper. 8-9 minutes, a parade of somewhat inconsistent drones, but perfectly effective. Sonority of silence has similar parameters, and it rushes us around 13 minutes. Kisses from the nozzle straight into the face of the neck, almost from mouth to mouth. Body into body, breath after breath. Perfect identity!
Duo 2! A molecular game without grammar of the structure and principles of grammar. It is difficult to indicate the level of intenseness at which this duo merges into one body more effectively. With everyone! Here, another dense short circuit, kisses and bubbles. In this group, everything can happen! There is no shortage of imitation at a high level – the guitar sounds like a saxophone, and the saxophone gets a new strings. Sonic magicians! A show of tricks and fireworks! All this second duet episode spins like an idle snake. It is only at the finale that he wags his tail, which he does not have. A perfect, small escalation. Bravo!
Richard Scott’s Lightning Ensemble & Jon Rose Auslanders: Live in Berlin (VR 001, 2016)
Berlin, June 2015; Richard Scott – synthesizer, David Birchall – acoustic guitar, Phillip Marks – drums, Jon Rose – violin (only in the second part); 2 fragments, 40 and a half minutes.
Trio! Quite acoustic exposure despite the presence of a synthesizer. It turns out that a talented musician with such a tool can also run on truly acoustic expeditions. Rws the recording space incidents are definitely non sustained. An example of sophisticated electro-acoustics with a large portion of the imagination (Birchall on the guitar without electricity!). Watchful drummer – plates, percussion in more frequent use than snares and toms. Thick, extremely sensual, carnal improvisation. Narrow band, but good acoustics of the concert. Synthesizer hidden, non-invasive, dramatically intriguing. During the escalation, musicians with feline agility enter noise attributes, also in high registers. A lot of sounds per minute, at times you can get lost in the places where they appear. After all, the synthesizer itself has so many electroacoustic possibilities. It is worth underlining the drummer’s great job at every step. At the same time, Birchalla guitar drowns in the stream of innovations that its partners bring to the stage. Dramaturgically, however, we can not be sure of anything at this concert! Audio phonics are hidden in every alley. 16-17 minutes, a bit of long-lasting sounds. From the synthesizer, maybe also from the guitar, which somewhere caught a bit of amplification. A more peaceful fragment, which is, however, effectively devastated by the drummer’s activities! What a fire! The guitar boils acoustically, the synth sizzles and the plum, but the third instrument remains in the foreground! The rest seemed to levitate.
Quartet! The violin throws a pinch of constructive dissonance into the crucible of the narrative. More space, blows from the ocean. The guitar sounds like it has no strings. The synthesizer begins to care more about low frequencies, while the rest makes metaphysical allusions. A bit of a billiard display. The violins burning in the welcome song are flowing violently and explosively. Wartka, multidimensional improvisation. If we liked the version in the trio, what can we say about the quartet ?! Birchall in this part is definitely more prominent. It seems that everything can be played here! Now it sounds like a Russian balalaika! Again, the step towards the narrative sounding of the narrative dulls the instrumental perception of the reviewer. But this one has no shadow of a doubt! It’s a great concert! In the 13th minute, a kind of compulsive industrial! The acoustics of the concert at 4+, it is a pity that not 5+, perhaps even more narrative nuances could be found. However – electroacoustic bauble!
Dave Jackson / T.H.F. Drenching / Kate Armitage Shiny Windmill Bugs (VR 003, 2016)
Manchester, April 2016; Kate Armitage – vocals and various objects, THF Drenching – voice recorder, dog toys, voice, pipes, Dave Jackson: woodwind instrument, cracklebox, percussion; 1 fragment, 23 minutes.
Botanic garden in the summer heat. Toys in the service of improvisation. A multitude of micro sounds, cat heads, rich and multi-species sound. Wood ornaments. A lot of good interactions, lots of freedom, but also a specific self-discipline of all three musicians. A fluid, compact narrative, despite the use of many atypical items, not entirely familiar with instruments. After all, they do not have the slightest problems with intriguing the reviewer’s ear. The woman’s voice gives the play the taste of the onrism, a pinch of transcendence. After 10 minutes, the narration slightly calms down, we get more vocals and flute, as well as other, higher frequencies. Music tastes like Spontaneous Music Ensemble with Julie Tippets and Trevor Watts – but on light drugs. For the finale of this unusually short story, a bit more percussion displays. Filigree performance, yes improvisation, after all very successful.
David Birchall Light Rail Recordings: Manchester // Moscow // Tokyo 2015-2017 (VR 005, 2017)
Field recordings from various places and dates (see: title); David Birchall – electric guitar, composition, post-production. 2 fragments, 8 minutes.
Electric drone, post-guitar rhetoric, more than sustained with no doubt. A lot of electroacoustic dirt and fear. The title of this modest single suggests a field recording, certainly subjected to the post-production process. The other side is the continuation of the exposure. It seems that the most interesting happens around a lazy pulsing guitar drone. The power of post-electronic fireworks. The recording is quite unusual for Birchall, but it perfectly complements his previous artistic achievements. The reviewer would like to get to know the continuation of this style in the performance of the guitarist.”
You can read the original in Polish here http://spontaneousmusictribune.blogspot.co.uk/
All the releases that are still in print you can buy here https://davidbirchall.bandcamp.com/
Berlin open air swimming pool related this group came out of the fresh idea of “THE SCHWIMBAD JAZZ POOL” an association that was going to include the 3 of us on this record and our pal Rogier Smal on drums. For one thing or another the day before we were going to make our first record in LEEDS in the summer of 2016 with Keeby at the controls at OUSE STUDIOS it became clear it would be a trio and the SJP idea faded but left still a group of musicians as interested in improvising together as they are in bathing. Also remaining was the nub of an idea from daft conversations with Roro over time that we should both appear nude on our next duo record.
Unaware of how amazing the Japanese ONSEN experience would turn out to be, things got heavy and amazing in Beppu which has over 100 bathhouses using naturally occurring volcanic spring water as the source, coming in at 43 degrees with varying mineral contents depending a little on which one you go to. Staying in an old school house with no bathroom it quickly made sense to go and visit the bathhouse in the morning, which was quickly followed by the realisation that it was possible to go to the onsen 2 or 3 times a day.
To make the photographs happen was really a nice and unusal thing; involving I think some delicate/brave discussion between our friend and colleague Ono (he also acted as the photographer) with an onsenmeister he knew well to allow us in after closing time and with a camera to take the shots.
Listening to trains overhead, my own breathing, fingers on the skin of a drum held and bendable; a talking drum type tensioned thing, children’s games in the passage way outside, paper thin walls, light passing through different opaque materials; granulated, holding really still in hot water, breathing, sniff sulphur, doing calculations on fall height of electrcial apartus and water, walls and doors creak and slide, the outside has come inside and the reverse but you only hear and can’t see because its opaque; only light filters in and sound; private space but completely permeated by sound, shoes off, a miniute rattle or bad connection somewhere in the jack plug of the jazzmaster, still not actually fixed it in fact, downtuned ping and pang, that flavour of stuff we don’t really have at home, clear sake, clean, listening to water bubbling, shaving in a steamy mirror, steam cooking in the mountains, trains overhead.
So this is an LP made up of the remaining two cuts that were recorded with the quartet made up of myself, Otto Willberg, Colin Webster and Andrew Cheetham in December of 2015 at what was a mega session in 4A Studio, Stockport with Sam Weaver at the helm. The CD that also came out on Raw Tonk Plastic Knuckle also came out these sessions as well as some huge group stuff of Sam’s some duo recordings with Andrew that are also in the archive somewhere.
I’m going to have copies of it with me at gigs in March so:
4th March duo with Nina Whiteman @ Peerhat, Manchester
14th March MCR NYC improv Congress featuring (Kate Armitage: voice/guitar, David Birchall: guitar, Jason Blackkat: bass, Craig Flanagin: guitar, Fredrik Haake: drums, Richard Harrison: drums, Kelly Jayne Jones: flute, Ecka Mordecai: cello, Jer Reid: guitar,
Alexa Kruger: bass clarinet, Normandy Sherwood: vox & electronix & Matt Wand: electronics Manchester) @ Klondyke Club, Levenshulme, Manchester
17th March w/ Colin Webster @ Bråk, London
29th March w/ Andrew Cheetham & Alan Wilkinson @ Cafe Oto Project, London
You can also get it direct from Colin::
There has been some interest in reviews already which is always really nice. The first from Stewart Smith in his column in The Quietus I want to quote the overall intro at length as I enjoyed it so much!
“The music’s liberatory potential points to a better, more radical Britain, distinct from the rainy fascist hellscape of the Daily Mail and the 1997-forever banality of the centrist dads. From Stormzy’s Brit Awards excoriation of Theresa May to the widespread solidarity shown towards the university pensions strike, there’s a genuine sense that the old order is falling. In culture, grime is leading the charge, but jazz and improv are right in there too, suggesting new ways of engaging with art and life.”
:::and the review itself:::
“Raw Tonk, the label run by London saxophone wrangler Colin Webster, is a key node in the UK-Lowlands underground improv axis. Its latest release – their first on vinyl – documents a December 2015 studio session from Webster and his Manchester comrades David Birchall (guitar), Andrew Cheetham (drums), and Otto Willberg (double bass). As with much of Raw Tonk’s output, there’s a punky energy to Plastic Kneecap, but it’s much too weird and agitated to be a blunt exercise in macho blurt.
There’s plenty of rasp, fidget and clatter, but it’s brought together with a keen sense of form.
Early on, Webster brings the set into focus with sing-song alto phrases in the key of Ornette, encouraging his bandmates to mould their abstract scrabble into some kind of wonky, fragmented groove, as if Prime Time had come up through the post-punk DIY scene. From there, it gradually breaks down into a quieter, more atmospheric section, with tremolo sax tones and growling bass drones slowly surveying a landscape of pattering toms and spiky, creaking guitar. It all builds up to a ragged climax, with Webster’s alto reinforcing this music’s odd relationship with free jazz.
‘Split Halfway’ opens with plenty of squawk and squibble. In contrast to the fuller low-end tones of the previous track, Cheetham goes for higher, less resonant drum timbres, rapping his sticks against the frame and hitting the snare at its tightest spot. Webster comes in with some relatively tuneful alto licks, upping the energy until the group achieve a kinetic intensity that’s almost free jazz, but for Birchall’s glue-huffing biker fuzz riffage. It all breaks down into wonky guitar chimes and buzzing baritone sax, becoming increasingly agitated as they canter towards the finishing line.”
Another review straight outta google translate from the fine people over at Opduvel in The Netherlands
“Plastic Kneecap is the thirty-first edition of the British Raw Tonk label, specialized in free improvisation, free jazz and noise, but it is only the first on vinyl. The previous thirty releases were CDs, CDs and a single cassette. Label boss Colin Webster has chosen for this first album a studio recording of the quartet that consists of David Birchall (guitar), Andrew Cheetham (drums) and Otto Willberg (bass).
At the end of 2016 the CD of Plastic Knuckle was released from the same foursome on the same label and a year earlier a cassette was released from the quartet on Tombed Visions, entitled Night Streets Of Madness. The new album consists of two pieces that were recorded on December 13, 2015 in The Room at the 4A Studio in Stockport in the English county of Greater Manchester.
Anyone familiar with the Raw Tonk label knows that the label stands for raw improvisations. Polishing is not done; it is about the pure reproduction of the moment, of the unadorned version of the music as it sounded on the spot. Of course there is mixed and mastered, but not to smooth things, but to achieve the most honest possible reproduction. The vinyl edition sounds great, almost as if you are in the studio as a listener.
The English foursome does not do the introduction or a careful start. All four musicians apply directly at the start of ‘Plastic Kneecap’. Webster plays alto sax and his tone is light. Birchall is the most crude of the musicians here, not playing clean notes, but playing raw and contrarian. The rhythm section is not a rhythm section in the traditional sense of the word, but consists of two free spirits with a sense of musical color shades. Cheetham is often continually busy with rhythmic and a-rhythmic patterns, loose strokes and exciting work on the cymbals. Willberg shows his skills in a short plucked solo, accompanied by Cheetham. The quartet feels each other perfectly. Robust play is replaced in an instant by more subdued sounds and the players also know when to stop for a moment to give room to one or more other musicians. Webster’s sax and Birchall’s guitar are tuned equally hard, which makes the musicians that sing through each other very well. In any case, it is a quartet that has played through each other to a true art.
Very nice is the part in which Cheetham uses his mallets and puts a clear rhythm. Webster initially plays long notes over that, but gradually becomes more active. Birchall’s game is very experimental and Willberg plays a few ironed notes. The part turns into a subdued piece that sings from (restrained) tension. With vibrating long sounds of the saxophone, a new part is slowly being worked on. Birchall produces high tones and a drone further on. The drummer uses low toms and the bass sings over it. The intensity increases, until suddenly gas is taken back and side A is quietly and briefly sounded.
Willberg opens side B (‘Split Halfway’) with an abrasive bass solo and he is joined by the shivering alto sax of Webster and the Cheetham on small cymbals and snare drums. Birchall plays his inimitable free game and gets plenty of opportunity to display that game because Webster keeps quiet. Style characteristics can not be relinquished on the guitarist, who quickly follows his ideas. Webster chants later with his coarse-grained style, while Willberg plays bass lines. The four musicians find each other again in a wonderfully chaotic part. Because that is where the greatest power of the English lies: the interplay. Every musician seems to be exploring his own possibilities for expression, but in the meantime the gentlemen feel each other perfectly.
A duet by Birchall and Willberg follows, in which the high notes of the bassist parry the transverse guitar playing perfectly. Webster is now switched to baritone sax, with which he brings his typical sputtering notes. Cheetham uses his hi-hat and taps on the edges of drums. Webster’s game remains reasonably constant, but gradually he lets his sax vult more. The other three musicians circle around it with their free play. The volume and the activity of all four musicians increase towards the end of the piece, not because consciously a climax is worked on, but simply because the ensemble determines that the music goes in that direction.
Over Plastic Knuckle wrote Opufvel at the time that the music of Birchall, Cheetham, Webster and Willberg is full of musical inventiveness, intensity and fun. Exactly the same can be said about Plastic Kneecap. The previous paragraphs concern an inadequate description of what the album has to offer, because there is simply too much at the same time to be able to describe it properly. That also means that the music guarantees many spins of listening pleasure. This is a fantastic LP for those who love unpolished free improvisation.”
AND another review this time in Polish via goooogletrans from Andrzej Nowak over at Spontaneous Music Tribune who has become a real supporter and follower of improvised music in the UK as well as in Spain and other parts of the world.
“Birchall! Cheetham! Webster! Willberg! Plastic Kneecap! Young Empire Strikes Again!
If you’ve read a fairly large, long Tonk on Tribune! Mission Possible! with understanding and due diligence, if the saxophonist Colin Webster is already a recognizable musician for you, it is a sign that the following review does not require any introduction.
If during the reading of the text referred to in the first sentence, you’ve come across the Plastic Knuckle album, realized by a quartet of young wolves British improvisation, then you are definitely already at home.
The same session – committed on December 13, 2015, in a place called The Room at 4A Studio, in Stockport – which gave three improvisations included on the above disk, today brings another two, this time provided by Raw Tonk Records in the form of black vinyl, under the twin, but not identical title of Plastic Kneecap.
The payroll is as follows: David Birchall – guitar, Andrew Cheetham – drums, Colin Webster – alto and baritone saxophone, and Otto Willberg – double bass. Two sides of the disc bring us less than 36 minutes of music. We’re looking inside!
Side 1. From the first moment, the narration is sewn with a dense stitch, with dynamic double bass walking, agile percussion, guitar and saxophone flowing in a very free, fast stream. Birchall and his plugged-in chord, which tastes good noise rock, it seems that they make the most of the wind here. Anyway, the whole story is soaked in the old, lover-loving post punk! In the quartet, we note very good communication, because the musicians are perfectly familiar with many improvisations and nothing is a surprise for them in such dramatic circumstances. 5 minutes brings a very jazz exhibition of Willberg, which is supported by Cheetham’s competent drumming. At the same time, the guitar sculpts, while the saxophone is remarkably … silent. The sound of the quartet is dirty, without acoustic fireworks (punk’s not dead!). The musicians play close to each other and rub their elbows against each other. In the 8th minute they give us a bloody, collective escalation. Bravo! Right after it, they are perfectly fast at a slower pace and are stalking autodhorpressive stories. A bit of oneiric guitar chants the meta ballad for bad children. The mantra percussion refers to the narrative path, and the rest of the instruments flows where their imagination will be. In the 13th minute the musicians decided to go down to the level of silence. Kings of slow sonore! The saxophone sends drones, the guitar is a deep ambient, like the fuzzy instrument of Dirk Serries, he also does not avoid flashes. A simply charming improvisation with a hint of remarkable psychedelia, a truly liberated trance!
Side 2. Double bass with a stuck, stuck between the strings, burrows the burrow in the ground. The saxophone snorts, the guitar polishes the strings, the plates resonate from wall to wall. Warm up on high C! Agile interactions – today’s question, today’s answer! Musicians catch a dynamic dribble without unnecessary delay. Maybe only a drummer does it with a slight delay. 5 minutes – Birchalla’s exposure to a rock note, and Webster’s viola, vigorous, with a brilliantly dirty sound, in an explicit commentary. Like a punk narrative, with a synoptic sewn into the spinal cord! Intriguing! The immediately escalated escalation that followed has, in terms of genre, completely eradicated formula. It is dynamic, ragged and indeed noisy. Bravo! The stop, after a short time, is attached to the guitar loop and double bass in the stage of trembling walk. The saxophone comes in as a counterpoint! There must be bread from this flour! As if David and Colin mutated the sound of their instruments at the same time. This story has a few threads, instrumentally smells of noise. A section of a delicate acoustic game. What a fantastic dissonance! The saxophone loop puts a stamp of excellence on this recording! Technical glitter on the final straight is also a guitarist’s part!
Tomorrow the premiere of this CD! We are on time!”
This CD is now available now on the Sound Anatomy label. Core Lightning Ensemble trio of Richard Scott, Philip Marks and myself augmented on several tracks by Sam Andreae with all the detail captured by Sam Weaver up on the 5th floor of Islington Mill, Salford. Really pleased to have the work of this group captured so well in a recording; the combination of modular synths (direct line with room monitor) acoustic guitar (hardly any projection outside a tiny room this was a big room) percussion (potentially massive projection) and saxophone (way directional masive projection) could be a real trial to record and mix well but Sam does a great job here. Intense lift in the mastering stage from Richard Scott in the Sound Anatomy Studio too.
Really happy with this work! A composition assembled from bits of recordings of light railways with pickups over a few years and various home and away journeys.
“Double A side lathe cut 7″ of compositions using recordings of public transport systems using pickups and guitars. Recordings made in Manchester Summer 2015 using a single coil taken from an old strat copy Orla gave me in 2001, Moscow August 2016 using twin entwistle humbuckers and Tokyo April 2017 stock pickups on my squier jazzmaster.
Edited and mixed in Stretford, Manchester June 2017.
Limited edition lathe cut 7″ and DL
Vernacular Recordings 005D”