Alan Tomlinson trombones
Rhodri Davies harp
Roger Turner drums and percussion
Improvising; its points of intersection, on multiple levels quick and fleeting, soft, moving through or ricochet, forming then unforming.
To think about materials, their properties: stretched strings, stretched skins, resistant yet pliant, visibly in vibration, responsive to touch; then air and brass probes, smooth as tubes of plasma, harsh as sand.
To play is to work with time, as if with microscope and telescope. "Rituals and festivals are temporal architectures that give the passage of time a skeletal structure, so to speak," Byung-Chul Han writes in Vita contemplativa. "and in this way stabilize it." So to speak.
To (improvise) play (music) is to encounter the unspeakable. How much easier it is to describe those microscopic entities pressed between glass slides in a micrarium, their sumptuous colours and intricate calligraphic body forms somewhere between Tantric paintings and the esoteric scripture of ghosts. Then here is a sound, transparent, thick, a wash, a scrubbing rattle, mixing with other sounds, a low gurgle, an airy slide, brushing, blat following blat hard metal, indistinct sounds from an unclear place, proclaiming pitches and vibrato, wandering rhapsody and flutter as if romance is in the air, collapse as if dropped, toothbrush motion a settling after foghorn arc across dark sea froth, lips moving through all the possibilities of the mouth, high bird trill, the sweep of a hand catching an edge with another edge, rapidity and stability, metal shot like a bow and what happens at the outer circumference of a part-object, mute and scrape, spit and agitations of the hand as if trembling with desire or fear. But how quickly these words become abject, inadequate, unspeakable. Shall we capitulate?
"What do the creatures that make noises in the night say?" asks Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing in her book, Friction. "Mainly we don't know . . . But we make a fair and generous guess if, among the many things they say, we imagine them telling us, 'Don't bother us, we want to live'."
I know Ryan's Bar in Stoke Newington, London, have played there, have no particular memories of the place, only know it as a possibility for this improvisation without a secure home whose skeletal structures have learned to camp where they can, at least with the provision of avid listeners, a degree of near-silence or quiet at least and an opening of time. Avid listeners who participate in the building and vanishing of skeletal structures.
I have played with these players, know their capacity for near-infinite invention, to some extent their vocabulary and tendencies. In 1981 I recorded a part of Alan Tomlinson's first solo LP, Still Outside, released on Bead Records, remember his precise attention to detail, his technical scrutiny and some unknown process of judgement and clarity, a seriousness of self-ethics unusual in a world in which whatever happens has happened and can't be changed or regretted.
To write, Rhodri Davies harp, Roger Turner drums, Alan Tomlinson trombone, says nothing about the fluid assemblages that accumulate here, gathering and dispersing. I have no idea when this session was recorded, how it came into being, no inclination to ask. A coming together, rarely, never or regularly repeated, perhaps unimaginable yet always possible in this music of shifting alliances and unlikely meetings. History, of course, but something more than history, not just the air of a bar vibrated into shocking life one evening back then but a question, often framed in the wrong way, like what is being said; but nothing is said, only the unspeakable is under the stethoscope, writhing under bones and flesh as if writing out the body's deepest feelings in the ink of time.
released February 5, 2024
recorded 21 March 2001 by Tim Fletcher at Ryan's Bar, Stoke Newington, London as part of a FlimFlam event
DAT transfer by Ewan Stefani
mastered by Jim McEwan
The uncertainty of the next moment and the perfect choice of expression, intensity and tension. This record is not only of historical value, it is the equivalent of seeing a phenomenon that has never been seen before. A fundamental thing. jiristepan