This all-too-short selection of grubby, furtive improvisation highlights the eccentric mix of inquisitiveness and irreverence that makes Daniel J. Gregory such a welcome presence in the weirdo underground. One half of Lust Rollers (with Mark Browne is the other) and co-big cheese of the Structured Disasters label and event series – Browne again – Gregory mixes cavalier free improvisation with grumpy AMM blankness, feeding gnarled splinters of acoustic guitar, waste-basket scrunches and no-technique snare drum clonks into a variety of group and solo settings.
With Gregory, less is quite often less, deliberately so it seems, yet his minimalism exudes a strange dark energy that ain’t always easy to quantify. In collaborative situations, it manifests itself as a kind of Higgs Boson effect, secretly adding sonic mass to whatever is going on nearby. At a recent Lust Rollers gig, Gregory spent the first 10 minutes determinedly bowing an empty cardboard box while partner Browne, alongside guest Ian MacGowan, yammered out lengthy circular breathing mantras. The barely audible screech of those trash arcos deformed his colleagues’ playing in subtle and almost indefinable ways, like a secret ingredient added to the pot that gives your signature dinner party dish extra vim and vigour.
With a runtime of just over 10 minutes, ‘Kebab Shop Will Sell Ice-Cream’ is similarly understated. The short pieces – guitar and unidentifiable noises, mainly, with the odd touches of hand bell and breath – have the feel of domestic recordings. Ambient hiss and mild, roomy reverb adds to a sense of intimacy. I mean, it could just be that Gregory’s accidentally left his phone switched to record while faffing around his flat, and liked the results so much he decided to release them.
Whatever, I dig them too, especially the pair of guitar jams that bookend proceedings. At five-odd minutes, opener ‘Space Roof Undone’ is the longest thing on here, the wide open plucks transitioning into stuttering muted strums. ‘Shitmouth Spill (Blues for Neil Campbell)’ is half the length but just as good, Gregory coughing and huffing like a tubercular Tom Waits gasping for dear life as he paws plangent twangs from his axe. The title, a reference to Campbell’s ‘Blues for Sadneck’ that Structured Disasters put out a while back, also serves to re-establish a psycho-sonic connection from Gregory’s base in Aylesbury to Campbell’s Yorkshire and beyond, teleporting these hermetic rambles onto the tangled byways of the global no-audience underground. Prepare for lift-off. Fair thee well, sonny jim.