This is a magical journey in sounds, ideas and textures, featuring three sonic visionaries. British John Butcher has developed his own profound method of playing the saxophones – soprano and tenor – as futuristic wind generators, employing a wide array of extended breathing techniques and producing feedback with nearby microphones. He converses in his own individual syntax, still, radiates a surprising playfulness and commanding elegance. Butcher collaborated before with American pianist Shipp and German analogue synthesizer player Thomas Lehn, but it is the first documented meeting of Shipp and Lehn.
Shipp comes from free jazz but this free-improvised, free-associative meeting enables him to suggest bolder ideas and sounds, rarely heard in his own recordings. Lehn adds the mercurial element to this live performance, captured in Cafe Oto in London on February 2014, on the first night of Shipp three-day residency. Lehn highly inventive, often aggressive playing of the synthesizer introduces elements of danger and surprise and adds textual references to to psychedelia, sixties electronic experimentation via Stockhausen works.
Obviously, such a meeting may be considered as too experimental to the novice listener, but actually it is quite engaging, even in its many raw, manic and weird-sounding moments. The dynamics between these strong-minded musicians are immediate and organic, but their interplay also stresses their individual approaches. All three negotiate imaginative ideas, expressed in lightning speed and mesmerizing subtlety, playing with great focus to detail and structure, but at the same time busy exploring their own sound universes. This constant-complex play of touching and going charges and colors this meeting with tension and reserved drama.
There are few segments on «Cluster I” where the three sound as busy sketching a noisy swinging melody, but soon it morphs to a dense collision of sounds and then it settles as an atmospheric storm. Later on «Cluster II” Shipp sketches a lyrical soundscape, soon contrasted by Butcher attack and Lehn otherworldly noises. On «Cluster III” Shipp repetitive chords dictate a hypnotic, playful pulse that reaches its climax with a beautiful solo of Butcher. The last “Tiefenshärfe” (Depth of field) is almost a ballad in the sonic terms of this trio, despite Shipp brutal hammering of the piano keys and Lehn resonating noises.
Run and check Tangle not only for the great music but also for the insightful liner notes of trumpeter Nate Wooley, the beautiful cover photo of guitarist Andy Moor and the beautiful inside painting of Gina Southgate, painted live at the Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen 2016.
John Butcher (s, feedback); Thomas Lehn (analogue synthesiser); Matthew Shipp (p)