A new CD with handprinted covers and a detail of artwork from a painting by Alexander Brealey Birchall is now out on Vernacular. Interesting for me as it explores recording quiet, end of the day, melodic improvisations, using lots of space: the kind of playing I did nearly everyday at this kind of dusk time but just as a private exercise. I realised though that sometimes very really great moments of music occur during this playing; so repeatedly recording these sessions over a couple of months this May & June has been really enjoyable; being able to capture some of these nice glistening moments.
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.”
“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.