An album of short-ish duets, with Adrian Northover on saxophone and Tasos Stamou handling all sorts of electronic and mechanical gubbins (‘prepared zither, cassette loops, digital horn and test generator’ it says on the pleasingly chunky retro evidence case that holds the physical release.)
I’ve seen Northover play a couple of times, most recently as a duet with Adam Bohman, where he played burnished, bluesy tenor riffs over Bohman’s nervy junkyard collages. Here, his playing ranges from full-on circular breathing outings to precisely-judged microtonal moves and beautifully avant-garde curlicues. Bravura stuff in anyone’s book.
I wasn’t familiar with Stamou previously, although the internet tells me that works with all sorts of instruments and devices, both acoustic and electronic, and has an impressive CV. Silly me for being so ignorant. Sorry Tasos.
It’s an inspiring pairing, anyway, resulting in a recording that is sparse and dry yet incredibly aurally rich, the duo’s pieces opening up an exciting sound world. Listen to The String Theorists, for example, to hear Stamou’s Radiophonic Workshop-style splurges oozing out of the speakers as Northover’s soprano hoots and twitters around it in a thrillingly absurd dance.
Often this seems to be music made a microscopic level. The clicks and breaths of Northover’s sax as they meld with Tasos’ low feedback tones, springy clicks and resonant metallic zither clangs make for a collage that’s minute and detailed, yet utterly riveting. For his part, Tasos’s interventions are either glisteningly elegant, an Alexander Calder mobile floating enigmatically in the air, or bracingly alien, as on his machine music blasts in Lullaby For The Existentialists.
Occasionally the synergy between the two players is so great that their sounds meld and you can’t tell which is which. On Periwinkle Supreme, what seems at first to be a smooth sax note warps and wahs, revealing it to be some kind of loop as Northover’s sax gently descends like a vapour. In these instances it is like listening to a single organic being.
Elsewhere, as on the album’s title track, two players also mirror each other, matching rhythms or sequences of notes using very different apparatus. Here Northover works up into full circular breathing mode, his initial hollow breaths giving way first to dissonant shards and then into stormy cascades of notes.
Stamou matches him every step of the way. First, he deploys a series of clangy strikes that resemble a birdcage being whacked with a drumstick. Then, as Northover really gets going, Stamou lets rip with a series of bubbly electronic bleeps. Somehow these two cascades of sound lock together in the vortex, like a fast-running river, rocks and pebbles swirling around the flow as it rushes toward the sea.
Available from http://linearobsessional.bandcamp.com/album/mantra-gora as a physical release or pay as much as you want download.
The physical release comes as a numbered edition of 50 CDRs packed in a red plastic evidence case with a sealable evidence bag containing one of Adrian’s saxophone reeds and a resistor used by Tasos in his circuit bending. Each CD is numbered and rubber-stamped.