CATALOG: mikroton cd 55
RELEASE: March 2017
Johnny Chang viola
Jamie Drouin suitcase modular and radio
Dominic Lash double bass
Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga zither
David Ryan bass clarinet
The Holy Quintet is a new group in Mikroton family with only one artist, namely Johnny Chang, appearing before on Echtzeitmusik Berlin compilation in 2012.
Borough documents the singular meeting of Johnny Chang, Jamie Drouin, Dominic Lash, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga, and David Ryan. The group was assembled by Simon Reynell for a one-off recording session at the Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel on February 15, 2013, taking advantage of Chang and Drouin simultaneously being in London for an installation and concert.
The Holy Quintet, as the artists would jokingly refer to themselves months later, is a cross section of each artist’s individual projects at that time, and shows where those varying languages overlap, as much as diverge. The result is an exciting and distinct album within each artist’s oeuvre.
In THE HOLY QUINTET und ihrem Borough (mikroton cd 55) verbinden sich mikrotonale Bemühungen geradezu synergetisch. Simon Reynell (von Another Timbre) hat in London mitgeschnitten und als Mixmaster fungiert. Mit Johnny Chang an der Viola und Dominic Lash am Kontrabass kratzen und schaben zwei weiße Wandelweiser ihre Saiten, zwei Meister, die mit Antoine Beuger und Radu Malfatti die Akzeptanz des Verschwindens verinnerlicht haben. In Jamie Drouin an Suitcase Modular & Radio, bekannt im Miteinander vor allem mit Lance Austin Olsen, kommen ebenfalls wandelweiserische und Another Timbre- Interessen zur Deckung. Auch die aus Thessaloniki stammende Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga gehört in London mit ihrer Zither, ob mit Mark Wastell als Beforehand oder als Bauchrednerin mit Martin Küchen, zur 'Familie'. Und der multimedial ausgerichtete David Ryan an der Bassklarinette peilt über Apartment House, Cardew, Brown und Wolff in dieselbe Richtung. Als elektroakustisch und dröhnminimalistisch improvisierendes String'n'Kling-Ensemble scheinen sie in ihrer nachmusikalischen Abstraktion mit Barnett Newman'schem Unterton und sublimer Klangfeldtheorie zu fragen: Who's Afraid of Beige, Brown and Evergrey?
Improvisierte Kammermusik, extrafein austariert, geht auf das Konto von The Holy Quintet (Johnny Chang, v; Jamie Drouin, e, radio; Dominic Lash, b; Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga, zither; David Ryan, bcl). Simon Reynell, u.a. Labelbetreiber von Another Timbre, hat die beiden langen Stücke auf borough in der titelgebenden Borough Welsh Congregetional Chapel in London aufgenommen. Es handelt sich dabei um ein Dokument britischer Improvisiertradition, in der beharrlich an der Aufhebung oder wenigstens Infragestellung der Wahrnehmung von Zeit operiert wird. Auch nicht übel.
I am not sure if The Holy Quintet is an on-going concern or a one-off thing. The group consists of Johnny Chang (viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular and radio), Dominic Lash (double bass), Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither) and David Ryan (bass clarinet). In February 2013 they played at the Borough Welsh Congregational Chapel in London and on this CD we find two cuts from that concert. I have no idea to what extent they are cut or edited from a bigger thing, or if this 'is it'? Whatever is the case, you strike what I wrote 'usual hit, scratch and pluck' when it comes to improvised music, as this surely is something very much along those lines. These five players surely know how to do that and it is far from a 'scratch/pluck/hit' release. The main interest of these five players is to play longer sustaining sounds, especially when it comes to the input delivered by Drouin, Chang and Ryan. The other two seem a bit more limited by placing accents here and there and all five players keep each other in a very good balance. Of the two piece the second is a perhaps more traditional than the first when it comes to playing improvised music, being a bit more broken up and less revolving around longer, sustaining sounds. At times it is all very thoughtful and silent and the next moment everything starts firing up again and it keeps moving all around the place. A most rewarding release.
A semi-traditional quartet of viola, double bass, zither and bass clarinet are joined by “suitcase modular and radio” for a two-part experimental piece concerned with the overlapping of mixed drones and sustained string bowing with analogue-style electronic tones and some spontaneous percussive interruptions. Unusually liberated from trappings of a theme or higher concepts (the album is named after the location it was recorded in), there’s a reactionary, improvised call-and-response flavour throughout that fuels the dynamic- yet much of the bass instrumentation is rather sombre and slow.
The ‘radio’ element is mostly crackly static-style sounds which often counterpoint the remarkable purity of pune that gets generated by some of the other instruments. That’s not always the case though, as sometimes the strings and clarinet are used more aggressively and percussively as well, in a way that occasionally sounds rather… well, rather farty. There’s a section towards the middle of part two which is especially dissonant, the album’s most challenging section.
Capitalising on a rare opportunity where the whole quintet were in the same city at the same time, “Borough” was recorded in one day back in 2013, but the slightly rough-hewn edges to this work seem deliberate and composed rather than simply undercooked. Here are five experienced performers enjoying the opportunity to collaborate on something fairly loose and free with likeminded other players. In terms of ingredients it’s nothing new, but as a confident, 37-minute avantgarde work it’s hard to fault.
Excellent sonorous and droney improvised music from The Holy Quintet on Borough (MIKROTON CD 55). I never heard this group of players before though we do recognise the name of Dominic Lash, the double bass player who has played with more UK players than you can name in three minutes, and also crosses to the dark side of severe noise-art with his work with Seth Cooke (the Grand Inquisitor of electronic pain), and releases for Every Contact Leaves a Trace. Canadian severo-meister Jamie Drouin came our way recently on Alluvium. David Ryan is the bass clarinet in London Improvisers Orchestra and Apartment House; viola player Johnny Chang from Berlin is part of the Wandelweiser collective; and Dimitra Lazarido-Chatzigoga is a zither player from Greece who has been working in London and involved in experimental music for 11 years.
That’s just a taster of the impeccable credentials of these five…in these brittle recordings, made by Simon Reynell in London in 2013, the combined sound is beautiful…every note hanging in the air and clearly distinguishable, yet somehow there’s also a pleasing group-mind blend of sounds. We can hear every gulp of the clarinet, every scrape of the strings, and every low-key hum emerging from Drouin’s mysterious “suitcase modular” synth. I must say The Holy Quintet do create a very benign and welcoming effect, something warm and enveloping, which may simply be due to mutual friendship and respect among the players, but there’s no restless twittering or harsh surfaces to be found on these performances, as of a spirited discussion among free-thinking socialists who love to disagree with each other on points of doctrine (usually in a loud manner). Instead it’s as though these five “holy” people were indeed engaging in prayer, meditation, or other form of shared religious devotion; it’s certainly deep and strong enough to effect any listener who is pulled into their orbit. There’s also the intangible sense that the combined music is asking questions, speculating, rather than issuing bold assertions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of atonal free playing sessions. This may point to a refreshing open-mindedness among the team, sufficiently liberated to engage in open-ended debate about what music should or should not be, rather than adhere to a strict ideological programme or a five-point plan to change society.
The label describes this release as something of a snapshot: “a cross section of each artist’s individual projects at that time, and shows where those varying languages overlap, as much as diverge.” In other words, the freedom to agree and disagree with each other. Very good indeed. From 19th April 2017.
Note: I find the “Holy Quintet” name is apparently a bit of an in-joke with the musicians, perhaps alluding to the fact that this was recorded in a Welsh Congregational Chapel. However, I stand by my observations.
Update 30/12/2017 from Kurt Liedwart: “The word “holy” became quite frequent among Johnny Chang, Klaus Filip and the gang, once they played in quartet with Radu and Derek Shirley in Vienna on Easter and called themselves The Holy Shit.”
Recorded in the Welsh Congregational Chapel in Borough, southeast London, this quintet of Johnny Chang (Viola), Jamie Drouin (suitcase modular and radio), Dominic Lash (double bass), Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither) and David Ryan (bass clarinet) takes on an appropriately spectral quality as their manifold creaks, strikes and crunches fade in and out of hearing.
Like a lot of Mikroton releases, the link between the players, their instruments and the sounds that we hear on the record are mysterious. Here the disconnect is even more pronounced. Sure, those stringy bumps could be Dominic Lash’s bow bouncing across his cello strings and that hollow, silvery tone could David Ryan’s bass clarinet. But, on the whole, sounds float free from their moorings, sonic manifestations divorced from their physical aspects. As a result, these two sets exist somewhere between possession and haunting, the personnel mimicking a Victorian spiritualist meeting, the attendees channeling the ghostly music of the aether even as they’re taunted by cheeky, restless spirits.
The uncredited sixth player in this quintet is silence. There’s a talk a lot about silence in the experimental music world – how much of it to allow in a performance or a recording, whether we can ever achieve true silence, how to banish it, even. Yet we rarely acknowledge that silence is not a fixed, immutable entity. It can be blissful, mysterious, meditative, depending on the context. Here it is oppressive, claustrophobic, bearing down on these ghostly voices like a force field. Absence becomes presence, and sound becomes a last barrier against oblivion.