The British, free improvising quartet This Friendship is Sailing features pioneering vocal artist and free jazz improviser Maggie Nicols, fellow vocal artist Odie Ji Ghast, known for processing her voice through microphones, dictaphones, sound machines and wires, sax and homemade instruments player Sam Andreae, who often applies to his sax playing the vocal acrobatics of another like-minded vocal artist, Phil Minton, and guitarist David Birchall, who collaborated and recorded with Andrea many times before. The quartet came together with various remote sessions in 2020 and 2021 which led to the recording of the debut album, Live On Curious Ear Radio (Beartown, 2021), «in the hot hot heat of the plague» (featuring also vocalist Greta Buitkute. Check the attached soundcloud link below). The quartet recorded its second album Shape Shifters live at Cafe OTO in London in August 2021 (OTORoku, 2021)
The self-titled album of this ever-creative and inventive quartet was recorded live at the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow in October 2022 and already is the third one of This Friendship is Sailing, The quartet established a profound rapport and describes its spontaneous and playful dynamics as «mad distant chatter from four cross-hatched Henrys», and, indeed, its interplay is eccentric and often even ironic, with many child-like game-like cacophonous sonic events and strange and even weirder wordless, emotional stories and sounds (Andrea and Birchall also play on balloons and sing) that simply follow their instant, constant shapeshifting intuitions. But later on, Nichols sings and tells a more conventional story. You can often hear the chatter of children in the audience enjoying and augmenting the joyful commotion of This Friendship is Sailing, but these idiosyncratic and experienced improvisers are not shy of colliding with sharp cliffs and clearly enjoying a sense of danger and risk-taking. This Friendship is Sailing teaches us that we all should make a joyful noise, much more often than we do, and if possible, with all around us.
Birchall references his archived duos with percussionist Phillip Marks to a recent discussion of Rio Ferdinand, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer about a Lionel Messi goal from the World Cup games. «I recognized it as exactly the sort of conversation that can happen between free improvisers when someone tries to discuss playing!», and, apparently, the others do not understand what is the aim of this discussion. Marks is a long-time comrade of Birchall and the two met for monthly sessions in Marks’ home in Droylsden. «Phil was always willing to pinpoint what was working, not working, and what could be tried or expanded on when we rehearsed together… talking about the specifics of the music and how we could make it better. This was something of a revelation to me as most of the conversations I had with pals close to me in age about our improvised practice was along the lines of ‘sweet jam dude, let’s try it again next week’».
Birchall/Marks Duo offers six duets that were recorded in May 2011 in Manchester that were released before as a self-released Birchall/Marks Duo tour cdR, a live recording from Over the Top in Sheffield in December 2011 and another live recording from Islington Mill in March 2015. It is obvious that these resourceful improvisers have shared many experiences, sonic and semantic, subtle ones and others leading to «hard funk mediation», throughout the years, and managed to keep their friendship on and off stage while always looking for more timbral challenges.
As with all the releases of the Glasgow-based scatterArchive, This Friendship is Sailing and Birchall/Marks Duo are offered at the «name your price» download option from the label Bandcamp’s page.
Sam Andreae (s, home-made instruments, balloons, v), Odie Ji Ghast (v), David Birchall (g, bjo, balloons, v), Maggie Nicols (v), Phillip Marks (perc)