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Common Objects: John Butcher / Rhodri Davies / Lee Patterson
Live In Morden Tower
MIKROTON CD 29 | 2013

Edition of 500.



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1. Spatial Principle ¬ D
2. Grade A Fancy ¬ B
3. Thoracic Pattern ¬ P
4. Breathless, Sodden Trash ¬ BDP

Rhodri Davies electric harp
John Butcher saxophones, amplifier
Lee Patterson amplified devices, processes

Rhodri Davies was commissioned by the London Musicians’ Collective to put together an ensemble and present a new work for each of the five nights of the 14th LMC Festival of Experimental Music in 2005. Since then the group has invited a number of musicians to join the core members of the ensemble. The current full line up consists of the trio heard on this CD as well as Angharad Davies and Lina Lapelyte.

Morden Tower is one of Britain’s best-known cultural landmarks. For the past 45 years, hundreds of leading poets, sound poets and experimental musicians have come from all over the world to give readings and make music in the ancient turret-room on Newcastle’s city walls.

The evening consisted of three solos followed by the trio. The trio music has a noisier and more abrasive edge to it than the solos. This may stem from a need to search beyond the now all too familiar language of reductionism or it might be a response to Morden Tower itself and the alternative scene that has historically taken place within its walls.

This is common objects’ first recording.


Just Outside, Brian Olewnick:
A live set from earlier this year, well-paced, with quite varied sound fields–all around, excellent. I’m not sure how long this trio has been extant but adding Patterson to the existing, occasional duo of Butcher and Davies is such a good fit. While each of the elder members has an extensive range of this own, Patterson adds spices that compliment each of them beautifully, maybe even draws them out. Davies, while often engaging in his gorgeous drones, is a bit more rambunctious here than I’ve often heard (in, of course, exposure limited to discs that find their way here), doing more actual plucking of the harp strings than I expect while Butcher, though often as vociferous as he can be, subsides into soft contemplation more often than in my recent experience with him, live and on disc. The structure of the album is three fairly short solo pieces followed by a half-hour plus of the trio. A fine Davies track containing the kind of soft but acid-tinged drone one might expect begins things, soon augmented by a lovely harp tinkle, just stunning. Butcher’s up next, juxtaposing flutter-tonguing with feedback tones and much else, quite a tour de force. Patterson brings things down to a rich, edgy simmer, revisiting the drone Davies left off on, adding small, hard objects to the mix, eventually dissolving into some finely awkward clunks and thumps–a wonderful piece.
The trio set is more disparate, sometimes entering harsher territory than one might expect, especially near the end, Davies (I think) sawing violently at his harp–it’s very exciting. Prior to that, about midway through, there’s a great section of dronage, really rich. There’s a lumpy, almost lurching quality to the music as a whole, something that initially put me off a bit but eventually, as I did a better job of discarding my expectations, I enjoyed quite a bit. The title given, after all, is “Breathless, Sodden Trash” and with Patterson’s crackles leading the way, it winds down in the gutter, a mournful Butcher howling with feedback.
Good, head-clearing work.

Vital Weekly, Frans de Waard:
Let’s kick off with the released by John Butcher (saxophones, amplifier), Rhodri Davies (electric harp) and Lee Patterson (amplified devices and processes), who apparently work as Common Objects these days. They played earlier this year at Morden Tower in Newcastle (and no, I will not link this to something else recorded there so many moans ago) and now released cut to three shortish pieces and one long. If these names mean anything to you, you know their deal. Anything makes sound, including the instrument I am using and it might not be the sound you expect this to make. The short pieces are solo pieces and I am particularly fond of Paterson’s ‘Thoracic Pattern’ this being an excellent drone like piece. In the other pieces we may recognize the instruments as such more but here, in the long concert piece of the trio, we too have an excellent interaction between the players and all of their approaches to the instruments. It’s music with a lot of silence cut in, to build up tension and let it all happen in those fringes of silence. At times perhaps conventional improvising, and at other times something entirely different. Nice one.

freiStil, Andreas Fellinger:
Die Latte liegt hoch, wird aber gleichfalls souverän übersprungen von den Common Objects (John Butcher, Rhodri Davies, Lee Patterson). Surrende, bohrende, zwitschernde Sounds werden von diesem Trio mit Amplifiern und Objekten, Prozessoren, Saxofon und elektrischer Harfe hergestellt. Es entsteht materielle Musik im Sinn von der akribischen Befassung mit der Materie. Ein wahrer Sog geht hier live in morden tower von dieser Verstärkermusik aus. Mitunter vermeint man, ein Rudel verschiedenartiger Vögel zu belauschen. Die dafür dringend nötige Konzentration wird ausgeübt und eingefordert zugleich.

Skug, Curt Cuisine:
Die »Nachtlieder« von Michael Thieke könnten womöglich auch ein paar Uneingeweihte in die schroffen Soundwelten der Elektroakustik locken, keine Option ist das bei CD No. 29. »Live In Morden Tower« präsentiert genau das, was der Titel verspricht, einen Impro-Live-Auftritt der Herren Rhodri Davies (elektrische Harfe), John Butcher (Saxophone) und Lee Patterson (Elektronikzeugs) in der Stadt Newcastle. Das ist purer Stoff für Die-Hard-Connaisseure, ein fitzelig-anspruchsvolles Soundgemälde auf fraglos hohem Niveau, mit einigen fein gelungenen Passagen, aber überwiegend as sperrig as hell.

Free Jazz Blog, Stef:
Somehow several musicians – British and German – have found a second home at Mikroton, the Russian label, that offers opportunities next to Another Timbre, the UK avant-garde label where we find the same musicians.
“Common Objects” are Rodhri Davies on harp, Lee Patterson on amplified processes and devices, and John Butcher on saxophone.
All three men have played together before, in duo or trio settings or in ensembles with other musicians. What they share is a clear disrespect for tradition and a relentless search, deep into sound, not only of the instrument itself, but of the sound in an environment, full of wonder of what they might find, yet sufficiently in control of their instruments to bring something of value.
The album kicks off with three solo pieces. “Spatial Principle” starts the album with a single piercing tone on the electric harp. If you have any idea about what a harp sounds like, please forget the concept, this is somethig else. Other tones, somewhat warmer, lower and extended, replace the piercing intro, generating some rhythmic changes – barely audible – or does this happen only in my mind?
With “Grade A Fancy”, John Butcher enters the scene, with high notes, tongslaps, windy sounds and birdlike chatter, through circular breathing almost dialoguing with himself, moving the short piece into many twists and turns, of volume and silence, excitement and calm.
Patterson delivers “Thoracic Pattern”, a pure electronic drone, and strangely enough, possibly the piece with the most human warmth, especially when the track softens – or can I no longer trust my heart either?
The real “pièce de résistance” is the long “Breathless, Sodden Trash”, on which the three artists engage as a trio. The difference is immediately clear, there is more density – even if that is a somewhat futile word here – but especially with stronger musical dynamics, with voices that find each other and amplify the sounds that erupt out of the silence, or grow organically, slowly, deliberately and unpredictably, to be welcomed by even lesser known sonic friends, welcoming them in this world beyond silence, chattering and dancing full of suprise and excitement, then calming down again, enjoying the languid pleasure of sustained notes, superimposing them on the same journey with similar sounds that are yet also totally different, with sudden outbursts of the sax, with some emotional anxiety presenting its story, evolving in absolute incomprehension – and distress even – among the colleagues – are they arguing? – are they celebrating? – yet soon they settle back in little sounds like bubbles in water, and resign themselves to silence, their natural default position, when no more energy is left for physical exertion.

Improv Sphere, Julien Héraud:
Première publication de Common Objects, nouveau trio composé de Rhodri Davies (harpe électrique), John Butcher (saxophones & ampli), et Lee Patterson (objets amplifiés), ce Live in Modern Tower est une suite de courts solos de chacun des musiciens, suivis d’une longue improvisation en trio. Une formule idéale je trouve pour présenter et mettre en avant les langages de chacun, si exceptionnels et différents les uns des autres, avant de passer à leur rencontre improvisée.
Le disque commence donc par un solo de Rhodri Davies, suivi d’un de John Butcher puis un dernier de Lee Patterson. Le premier et le dernier sont basés sur des sons continus et linéaires, sur la calme et la spatialisation du son. Davies comme Patterson ont chacun un son unique, parfois très abstrait, parfois proches d’instruments (la harpe peut parfois ressembler à un harmonium, ou à des percussions, comme les objets de Patterson). Et quant à Butcher, nouvelle démonstration de force avec une improvisation toujours très riche, un langage unique qui se reconnaît parmi mille saxophonistes composé de techniques étendues inouïes. Son improvisation est dure, sèche, et son système d’amplification enrichit ecnore son langage d’une manière plus ample et violente.
Après ces trois belles présentations de chacun, on arrive alors à une longue improvisation d’une trentaine de minutes en trio. De manière générale, cette improvisation est plutôt linéaire et continue, les trois musiciens jouent sur de longues notes et de longs sons continus et ils ne changent que très progressivement de registre. Cependant, si cette pièce paraît calme et douce au début, plus ça va, plus la tension se fait présente. Les sons de chacun deviennent de plus en plus durs, de plus en plus abrasifs et la pièce finit en une suite de vagues sonores massives et dures, sèches et rugueuses, d’une violence douce et d’un calme nerveux. Une violence qui se fait dans la retenue, comme si Butcher prenait les devants, mais que Davies et Patterson l’empêchaient d’aller trop loin. La tension et la nervosité sont palpables, on ne sait jamais trop ce qui va se passer, et le trio surprend à chaque vague de sons. Car il faut le dire aussi, le son collectif de ce trio est inouï et magnifique. Les textures de chacun se mélangent avec une simplicité qui contraste avec la violence des interventions individuelles, tous les sons finissent par se noyer dans la saturation et la distortion même si on reconnaît très bien les timbres individuels.
De prime abord, je ne m’attendais pas à grand chose de cette rencontre, mais la surprise a été vraiment conséquente. Jamais je n’aurais imaginé une improvisation aussi intense et aussi puissante venant de cette collaboration. Le son et la dynamique de ce trio sont vraiment puissants et intenses. Une rencontre saisissante et renversante. Très beau travail, fortement conseillé.

Soundofmusic, Thomas Millroth:
Tre mästare tillsammans. Sådant bör lyssnaren vara vaksam mot. Saxofonisten John Butcher har en lång historia med reparationsarbete och undersökande kirurgi beträffande saxofonimprovisationens möjligheter. Få har signerat så många verkligt betydelsefulla album som han.
Rhodri Davies och Lee Patterson skulle jag karakterisera som folk med annan estetik. En flödande, kontemplativ ström. Många gånger har jag diskuterat med entusiastiska vänner av Davies speciella idiom. Min förtjusning är begränsad, så var det sagt. Jag hör hans unika röst, men jag blir less vid att karln har så litet att säga. Trots allt. Jag har inget emot lågmäldhet, men någon förundran bör där finnas.
I mina öron – nu överdriver jag kanske – hör Davies och Patterson till de musiker som är rätt nöjda med sig själva och sin musik. Butcher är motsatsen. Ständigt frågande.
Den här trion motsvarar helt och hållet förväntningarna. Musiken strömmar, den knastrar, den fokuserar de där små ljuden som alla tre är mästare på att lokalisera och använda. Det är gott. Men det jämna flödet tröttar.
Och efter ett tag börjar jag undra om min lyssnarkropp det allra minsta kan sjunka ner i denna ström och få den att stiga något. Arkimedes princip gäller ju också musik, tänker jag. Men denna uppåtriktade kraft verkar inte fungera här. Så hörs också Butcher fundera. Då och då klapprar hans omisskännliga spel rakt igenom den tröga strömmen och ytan höjs med en chock. För att sedan sjunka igen.
Alla vänner av Davies kommer dock få sitt lystmäte, det här är en bra skiva i sitt sammanhang, även om antika principer inte gäller. Det finns värre. Och bättre. Vänner av Butcher har en stor skivhög att botanisera i. Gör hellre det.

Jazzword, Ken Waxman:
There’s a probing consistency in British saxophonist John Butcher’s music, with the following of unexpected paths one of its chief listening pleasures. Like many other peripatetic improvisers, the London-based soprano and tenor saxophonist is involved with many other musicians, yet as these sessions demonstrate, he maintains a consistency of approach.
Put together 8½ months after the other CDs – which were recorded within five days of one another – Live in Morden Tower’s first three tracks are like chapter summaries, outlining what Butcher, Davies and Patterson do individually before joining for the final improvisation, inelegantly entitled “Breathless, Sodden Trash”. With dissonant contributions from each player bringing in suggestions of contemporary notated, electronically processed and post-linear improv, the result may be sparse but is in no way sodden.
Even more so than Kurzmann, likely in response to the abrasive twangs and rough plucks that come from Davies’ electric harp strings. Patterson’s live processing to stretches out a blurry, underlying drone among the improvisations. Throughout he alters the sound architecture with draftsman-like efficiency. Not to be outdone Butcher’s reed trills often quiver violently, joining with Davies’ jagged string slices to reach a crescendo of rolling tones. Overall this trio interaction is as assertive as the trio with Kurzmann and Kaplan is passive. But assertive doesn’t mean the collective sequences are smug or strident. For every jagged string stroke there’s an equivalent bonding one; and for every thin woodwind whistle there’s a curved tone that blends as well as accompanies. In reality the concluding sequence wrenches an unexpected lyrical line from the tremolo atonality that is made up of equal parts reed honking, rotating clattering processes and sul ponticello string strokes. Propelling the melodious line in a fashion as understated as it is low-pitched, Butcher confirms his multi-fold imagination.
Decisively as well, each of these stand-out discs substantiates his contributions in varied group settings.

The Sound Projector, Paul Khimasia Morgan:
Three solos and one trio recording, all live and recorded on the 25th of January 2013.
Rhodri Davies has become obsessed by making his harps sound like anything but of late – Wound Response on Altvinyl being a case in point. Here, on “Spatial Principle”, the opening track, after being primed by the opening salvo of noises, my ears were convinced they were hearing the sound of feedback produced by super-hot talkback mics being switched open and shut and not a harp at all. Maybe they were.
“Spatial Principle” suggests emptiness. Pure tones give way to instantaneous bashings; like the insides of alarm clocks are left to cavort over the recumbent instrument. An appealing void generated by Davies’ electric harp. One of many in his harp arsenal I don’t doubt. This is clearly a man with a collection. He even utilises his old, broken harps in his installation/performance work; his performance “Cut and Burn” involved cutting and burning the strings of a concert pedal harp and then restringing the harp and in 2008 he collaborated with Gustav Metzger on a series of events under the title of “Self-Cancellation”.
The second track, “Grade A Fancy” from John Butcher is initially a traditional display of extended technique that our favourite avant-saxophonist opts to assail our senses with, but in short order he subverts any remains of identifiable “style” into an aural cauldron of panicked broth. The sax sounds like one of those small Eastern dual-pipes such as a double-flageolet but more Eastern sounding briefly, before a flurry of energy catapaults the already blurring notes toward an abrupt ending (I wonder was this edited?). A bowler-hatted stereotype rushing for a bus on London Bridge?
Next, Lee Patterson’s “Thoracic Pattern” (referencing the thorax in general or respiratory disease specifically?) sounds like the growl of an abused Hammond organ – it is obviously not a keyboard, it’s probably bits of a broken old umbrella he found on the street, knowing Lee. The piece soon comes to an abrupt halt and what sounds like a room mic recording of a light spot of lead pipe-bending replaces it. Cymbals or other flat brass is bowed.
Our man Patterson, however, is in no hurry. If you told me that Lee’s latest gambit was to attempt to record huge tanks of used motor oil in a brass diving bell with hydrophones, I’d believe you. If I told you this sounds like an abused Hammond Organ falling in slow motion, I wouldn’t be offended or surprised if you laughed in my face, but that exactly what it sounds like to me. Lee says its “amplified devices and processes” on the sleeve. Lee Patterson IS a process in himself. He has spent months if not years obsessively perfecting his sound-making strategies holed up in a Salford bedsit. He never turns his ears off – I had the pleasure of accompanying him on a walk around Brighton a few years ago and a route that normally takes around fifteen minutes became an hour-long slog as he kept stopping and picking things up off the street, putting them to his ear to thoroughly test their sonic potential, before rejecting them. He did, however, almost take a discarded broken umbrella home with him, and that’s a true story. Soon, experimental musicians will be telling each other how “to the extreme” they have “Leepattersoned” their latest sounds.
The group performance track “Breathless, Sodden Trash” is slabs of noise like the strata in a Jurassic cliff face. It ends with a free jazz blow-out played on mining equipment. All that’s left afterwards are the embers. Such velocity and aggression can only be rewarded with …what? Then there is something involving air rotating around something vast. A container ship hull, something like that. It is forcing big bits of something else forcibly down a tube or funnel of some kind. Hearing this using the magic of headphones is a pleasant way to go deaf. The combination of these three players is great – it makes me wish I’d seen the concert – I’m lucky enough to say I have witnessed all three souls perform separately on a few occasions now – because, as good as this recording is, being in the same room as them would have been something else. It’s a futurist jazz if in the future we were all living deep underground and jazz as a musical form had been developed by insects.
At 31 minutes, “Breathless, Sodden Trash” is probably the majority of the whole performance. The first three tracks are so short in duration, (Patterson’s solo piece is struggling to reach seven and a half minutes even), it is possible they be edits of solo performances. It’s a big contrast of duration – the solos are equal to only half the duration of the group recording. Disparate trios – a homogenous trio. Hammered into shape by lichens.
Morden Tower is in Newcastle in the north east of England – I had to stop myself nearly making an erroneous pilgrimage to Morden in South London on the strength of this disc. The sleeve, like all Mikroton releases, is a product of label head Kurt Liedwart’s fertile visual design imagination. As I said, Liedwart runs Mikroton and also gets a production credit here. John Butcher was responsible for the mastering. As you can probably tell, I’m digging this disc. Quite a lot. As with all the other Mikroton titles I own, an Edition of 500.

Современная музыка, Илья Белоруков:
Трио под незнакомым названием со всем известными музыкантами: Джон Бутчер (John Butcher), Родри Дэвис (Rhodri Davies), Ли Паттерсон (Lee Patterson). И первые три трека коротко напоминают нам о их заслугах. Дэвис дронит на электроарфе при помощи электросмычка и использует моторчик, заставляющий звучать струны; 4 минуты. Бутчер свистит и заводит сопрано-саксофон, даже недолго играя ритмические фигуры скорее в духе Энтони Брэкстона (Anthony Braxton), после чего срывается в головокружительное виртуозничание, стилистика пост-самизнаетеэтогоанглийскогосаксофониста; 4 минуты 50 секунд. Паттерсон – сам в себе и по себе, играет на каких-то девайсах, шабурша и дроня, но резко останавливаясь и переходя к следующему материалу; 7 минут 19 секунд. Вот такой сборник на три трека. Сложно сказать, нужно ли было включать их в альбом, ведь это уже сыграно музыкантами не раз, а уж слушателями слушано-переслушено. Отмечу разве что трек Паттерсона, как наиболее самодостаточный.
31 минута 35 секунд; это главная начинка диска – трио. Состав очень знатный. От них ждёшь чего-то особенного. Чем удивили и удивили ли? Пожалуй, что нет, никаких больших неожиданностей не произошло. Кажется, что эта музыка берёт-таки своё начало в том самом классическом английском импрове; вероятно, это из-за Бутчера и его саксофонизма. Да, он играет в своей фирменной манере: мультифоники, трели, длинные ноты, фыркания и бурчения, фидбеки и так далее. Всё это мы знаем. Однако Паттерсон направляет общее течение в более шумовое русло, чем словно омолаживает известную, казалось бы, музыку. Дэвис находится где-то посередине, как связующее звено. Играют весьма экспрессивно, хаотично и много: это необычно, ведь в последнее время это моветон для импровизаторов, думающих о новизне. Трио же возвращается к корням, но делает это с точки зрения сегодняшнего дня. Потому тут есть место не только длинным дроновым созвучиям и использованию пресловутых моторчиков, но и традиционному неидиоматическому кудахтанию. Любопытно, что все эти детали можно выяснить только при очень сконцентрированном слушании, а вот при фоновом замечаешь лишь общее течение звука, а он меняется часто и быстро, что тоже является для многих неким запретом в наше время.
Вот так и получается, что трио рушит сложившиеся в последние годы стереотипы, но вместе с тем и откатывается назад в используемых средствах. Новизна через традицию? Свежий взгляд на классические приёмы? Поиск неизведанного контекста в поле современного импрова?