Friday, 10 May 2013

Gail Brand and Morgan Guberman - Dig A Ditch And Get In


To describe an album as funny would, I think, normally be a criticism, especially in improv circles, but there is no other way for me to approach 'Dig a Ditch and Get In'.  Gail Brand and Morgen Guberman have created something special; two great artists in an inspired pairing. It is a work of deranged and hilarious  brilliance.  Gail Brand is a trombonist who has performed in many settings, in particular good form on releases with Mark Sanders; and has also appeared on Stewart Lee's BBC sketch show, memorably chasing an apple buying man on an enraged shop-smashing rampage.  Morgan Guberman is an improviser who operates across a range of instruments but, on this release, contributes vocals, mouth noise, and the occasional burp.

Opener 'Skoo Kash' is one of the highlights; Guberman sounds like an enormously drunk Tom Waits, hollering nonsensical phrases about "jelly jam" and "shitting on the sidewalk" at passing traffic with his trousers around his ankles; Brand mirrors him in discrete short enclosed flurries as if trying to move him along and get him somewhere without actually giving away that she's with him.  The rest of the album is no less brilliant; Guberman covers Mutley sniggers, breathless gasps, operatic odes to "monkey beans" and disconcerting growls; Brand in turn soaks the proceedings in quick natural responses, sometimes a short parp or warble seems to underline something in the vocals but at other points she drags the mad jibbering in her wake as she launches into a short jazzy riff or bluesy drone.

'Dig a Ditch and Get In' is more than worthy of your attention and I have returned to it repeatedly.  It is fun, fiercely intelligent and fearless in its pursuit of an almost Dada-like absurdity.

Buy the album here.  Do it!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Daniel Thompson, Alex Ward, Benedict Taylor - COMPOST (Cram Records)

This debut release from Cram Records, recorded at Shoreditch Church in 2011, is a true ensemble performance, no single artist dominating.  The music ranges from almost empty whistles and sighs to space-filling density and violent turbulence.  The album puts the listener right in the room; a police siren is clearly audible, as are sniffs and coughs that validate the January recording date.  The players (Daniel Thompson - Guitar, Alex Ward - Clarinet, Benedict Taylor - Viola) leave plenty of space for each other without sounding hesitant; each leaning into the middle ground while constructing a strongly bound sound mass, each gesture causing action and reaction among the musicians.  Ward and Taylor swirl around each other like bugs around a night light; an instinctual and beautiful dance framed by Thompson's subtle interventions: plucking single ringing tones amidst the tumultuousness, occasionally opting for short runs and bouncing string resonance.

'COMPOST' is not only a fascinating document of an absorbing performance, but an interest-piquing introduction to a new label that promises much if later releases are as good as this one.

Cram Records

Purchase a download the album here