CD – 6 tracks
1. Pachacamac (11:42)
2. Epicycles (13:07)
3. Coyolxauhqui (9:53)
4. The Central Region (For Michael Snow) (18:27)
5. Tlaloc (4:07)
6. Solar Wind (8:23)
“Evan Parker is a famous saxophone player who is around for quite some time already. He has been playing with a number of different people, mostly in the improvised music areas. On this CD he is working together with Lawrence Casserley who is taking care of all the signal processing (effects). It has been recorded at STEIM in Amsterdam, january 1998. Evan Parker is a brillant musician who is capable of producing the most beautiful sounds. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that they are made with a saxophone. And after processing they sound even less recognizable as such. The result is a quite “relaxed” CD with six tracks which are very nice to listen to. Long delay times, lots of dynamics, drones and other piercing stuff. For me it’sthe sound of wind in all its various aspects, from a windy afternoon breezeto a thunderous storm.” [RM]
The New York Times (USA):
“Like Courteny Pine, Evan parker’s strongest influence from the jazz world is John Coltrane, but he works outside the jazz idiom (and all other idioms) as a saxophonist who explores timbre rather than song. He has often sounded rather like a soulful machine: when he really gets going with the circular-breathing technique on soprano saxophone, he turns sequences of timbral squeaks and tempered notes into mesmerizing, whirling cycles. On “Solar Wind” (Touch), he plays long tones and slower cycles with fewer notes, letting Lawrence Casserley treat them electronically as he’s making them; the notes come out doubled, quadrupled, liquefied, until one phrase sounds like a herd of geese or a droplet of water. It’s ambient music, fascinating at points, but it doesn’t lead anywhere special.” [Ben Ratcliff]
“I approached Solar Wind (Touch 35) by Evan Parker (soprano Sax) and Lawrence Casserley (signal processing instruments) without looking at covers, titles or liner notes. Waves of acoustic, electronic, analog and digital cyclic delays, inseperable music expanding in all directions at once. Particles/waves of sound some with no discernible mass, shooting through. My perception is without pause for association. The intended equal with the unintended. Muffled bottom end and difference tones are sieved from the colliding systems above. I go looking for Parker in this mist – his instrument has expanded into a metasax. Four minutes into the second track he suddenly emerges, the rasp of his reed chased by an attentive delay which diffuses into overall washes and strangely vocal-like side effects. Computational number crunching produces digital glitches and pops that provide a topography, a surface, like the dust in Duchamp’s Large Glass. Serene long tones against a faint tapping evolve into sculptured slithers of shimmering unstable filtered tones. At one point there are lots of raucous little harmonized Parkers sounding like my modem. Foreground and background crossfade as new distortions evolve. This music mimics natural open-ended systems because this is a chaotic natural phenomena itself. The byproducts of process are everywhere, nagging difference tones and the gritty dirt of chaos. Gated turbulence is engulfed by searing long tones that fry your ears with intensity (phased sherbetty tingly sensations). Key clicking foregrounds with power and presence: digital drips in a sea of bright white sound. It’s an awesome CD. After listening I peruse the photos of Karen Mirza, Jon Wozencroft’s design, the quote from Borges in the booklet and the ambiguous titles. None would have harmed my experience.” [Jim Denley]
New Powers (Canada):
“Who are Parker and Casserley? Here is some musical biography on these two diverse artists. Evan Parker- soprano saxophonist, is a highly respected improviser. Lawrence Casserley- signal processor, has a unique expertise in live computer processing for improvised music. Recently, Casserley has developed a signal processing instrument specifically for improvised music. Parker has been closely involved in the development process. The combination of their talents intensifies and enriches both their work. The complex interaction made possible by Casserley’s instrument leads to a rich and subtle fusion of their musical personalities. Together they create a remarkable duo. Solar Wind is highly atmospheric. Enough to burn your way through the universe.”
Under the Volcano (USA):
“Avant sax legend Evan Parker’s collaboration with Lawrence Casserley is a wonderfully odd work. The five pieces move from the tantric minimalism of composers like Terry Riley, glistening and hypnotic, to the chattering mania of John Zorn, chaotic and unpredictable. Casserley’s electronic treatments and extensive processing of Evan’s dynamic improvisations create vivid, ever changing panoramas of tone and color.”
The Sound Projector (UK):
“Parker’s soprano sax, processed by Casserley’s electronics on this CD, which is very sweet and easy on the ear…this may be a good thing if it entices an average chill-out thrill seeker to bend an ear, but what does it say about Evan Parker’s direction? This is almost like improv for the Portishead listener, who likes music to be little more than sounds which are sampled, looped, processed and sitressed into pure, art-free entertainment. A shame if so, because Parker has always struck me as being about complete commitment to the processes of playing and practising, exploring the relationship between artist and instrument, and not simply about affecting nice sounds in the ether. My prefernce with parker’s diverse work isn’t hard to guess…I recently came across one of the rare Beak Doctor recordings (Evan Parker at the Finger Palace) which is intensely harsh, a warbling vibro intenso meisterwork of inexorable looped notes. It is actually physically difficult to listen to, demonstrating that room-clearing power Parker was somewhat amused to find he had. Still, that’s not to say every single Parker recording has to come armed in full attack mode – and if you’re not as captious as this listener you’re bound to be pleased by the aerial acrobatics on display here. There’s even a tribute track to the great Canadian avant-garde film maker Michael Snow – ‘The Central Region’ named for one of his structuralist cinema masterworks. Interestingly, Michael Snow also made a film called New York Eye and Ear Control which has a Free Jazz soundtrack on the ESP label.”
” Evan Parker’s soprano sax is reduced to a reedy spectre by Casserley’s unique signal processing techniques and equipment. Parker sounds distant and troubled on ‘Pachacamac’, wringing mewls and a babble of indistinct whimpers from his instrument. ‘Epicycles’ is an increasingly bewildered rodent, cornered, shrieking, and clawing at the walls of melody. Parker’s teasings could frequently be mistaken for the sussuration of water in overhead pipes or, on ‘The Central Region’ for either mainframe repartee or a Schoenberg intermezzo. ‘Coyolxauhqui’ hovers weightlessly within a vacuum of Bertoian sonambiance. The textures of ‘Tlaloc’ and ‘Solar Wind’ mimic the concrete volutions of Dockstader’s Water Music, cresting in ribbons of hysterical high-frequency noise. Parker and Casserley have created an extraordinary album, a bold venture into the arena of empirical electroacoustics for Parker, a titan of empirical improvisation.”
ICMA Array (USA):
“This CD appeared in my mailbox several weeks ago. Since then, I’ve listened to it umpteen times. And I’m amazed every time I listen to it. Evan Parker improvises on soprano saxophone in this collaboration. Don’t expect to hear a lot of _obvious_ sax, though, as this 1997 recording also features Lawrence Casserley improvising on signal processing instrument. Together, the duo create an intricate and compelling sonic environment; they _cook_. This music doesn’t need words about it: Listen to it, and then put it on your list of CDs to take with you to that desert island.”
POSTCARD FROM EUROPE
Another glimpse at the electronica scene in Cologne, part two: Jack Pohl Presents, Festival for Electronics and Improvisation.
Stadtgarten, Cologne. Jan. 7-9
Had he spent time in Cologne, German literary critic Walter Benjamin would have done a bit of flanerie here. Surrounded by a large green park, Cologne’s Club Stadtgarten was a place for flaneurs to stop and imbibe around the turn of the century. Now also a club, it presents blues, traditional jazz, improvised as well as ethnic music. Its musical history reaches back into Cologne’s cool jazz scene — Lee Konitz took part, and recently, at a gig by the noise-improv duo of William Hooker and Lee Ranaldo, I spotted an octogenarian who was supposedly grandpa Kelly of the Kelly Family.
At the Jack Pohl festival, the club pushed Cologne’s Stockhausen heritage into a realm the master himself disparaged, improvisation. It presented a wide range of performances, from analogue-synth maniac Thomas Lehn with Austria’s Pita and Fennesz, to Bob Ostertag’s “Say No More” group, to the Swiss duo Voice Crack, who produce music via light diodes, to Evan Parker’s latest forays into the realm of real time sampling.
No stranger to melding electronics with improvisation, Parker has been working with electronics since the late ’60s. Back then, he and percussionist Paul Lytton included in live shows tape recordings of earlier duo performances, and Lytton used and uses contact microphones, where simple household devices, an egg whisk, for example, produce sound, via percussion, (violin) bows or simple rattling. This aesthetics of household, found, and reproduced objects, junk even, has produced two marvelous and raw reissues, ‘Two Octobers’ and ‘Three Other Stories’ (Emanem), a forum that has its roots in testing the limits of what our musical sensibilities felt about “noise.”
At the Stadtgarten show, Parker performed with Lytton and added a recent interest, real time sampling. Using this on his ‘Toward the Margins,’ (ECM, import only), Parker has taken his trio of Lytton, bassist Barry Guy and added three real time electronic processing musicians. The results shift the energies of the free improvisation trio to atmospheric timbres, just fine for chill-out rooms, as a German critic recently stated. More importantly though, Parker and his cohort at the festival, Lawrence Casserley, are interested in the synergetic effects of live electronics and improvisation, “an inherent presence of the unpredictable and essential willingness to develop techniques for dealing with these elements.”
With Parker, Casserley has developed a sampling computer (Macs, of course) where he can alter, among other things, pitch and delay time of others’ sounds. A recording, ‘Solar Wind’ (Touch) presents Parker and Casserley and, like the ECM release, it’s atmospherically beautiful. But die-hard free improv fans will miss the drive of the duo or trio. The music here is a landscape of labyrinths. The CD booklet includes a citation from Borges’ ‘Labyrinths,’ which indicates where this music comes and where it is going: Appearances and surfaces become mistaken for the real thing.
Live, Parker never played into a live mic, only into one for Casserley’s computer. “Think of it as Lawrence and me both playing a complex two-man instrument like rowing pairs or driving a tandem. In this way of thinking we are equally responsible for a share of the total outcome even if the acoustic saxophone is sometimes almost imperceptible.”
Casserley took Parker’s sound and slowly morphed it out of recognition — at one point in ‘Solar Wind’ you hear him slowly shift Parker into white noise — music that whirls around entranced and entrancing, dervish-like. At the festival the music became a little dull, part and parcel of the searching character of free improv, which made the introduction of Lytton all the more important. He banged hard and loud at moments when the music was stagnating, setting necessary accents, borders even.
Alternative Press (USA):
“Veteran British free-improvisation saxophonist Evan Parker is perhaps best known for his solo concerts, where he uses circular breathing and a variety of techniques such as key clicks, tonguing and harmonics to create long, complex sheets of sound. This collaboration with Lawrence Casserley is curious and unusual even for Evan Parker, because Casserley “plays” a digital-processing device, reacting to and enhancing whatever Parker generates. In effect, you can’t really hear Casserley – you can only hear his treatments. Together, the two musicians/composers contrive to make Parker sound either like some super-realistic force of nature or the sonic visitations of supernatural beings. On several tracks, huge choruses of electronic birds, frogs, crickets or geese gabble frantically, communicating in some complex but inscrutable code while being buffeted by electronic winds. Other pieces start more lyrically but soon become haunted by odd strangled squeals and various “ghost” voices which comment on the riffs and patterns that Parker generates. The essential strangeness of this music can hardly be overemphasized, but unlike most academic compositions with electronics, it never comes across as being merely experimental – and , in fact, it often has a strongly emotional presence.” [Bill Tilland]
Your Flesh (USA):
“The idea of having electronics manipulator Casserley process Parker’s alto sax-playing is intriguing and is the driving concept behind this record. And the final product is riveting. Given Evan Parker’s circular breathing technique, Casserley must have been tempted to extend and transform the music into drones. Thankfully, Casserley operates with a great deal of subtlety, reducing and fragmenting Parker’s playing as often as he tries to overlay and extend it. So the tingling clusters of notes that pop up in ‘Epicycles’ come as a pleasant surprise early in the recording. This CD is all about texture and extension, sitting and listening with the goal of distinguishing the ‘real’ from the processed can be time well spent. On the other hand, Parker and Casserley are obviously playing together, so that Solar Wind isn’t simply about some black box processing a signal. The flow of the music circles around and between the two musicians. Casserley triggers his software with drum pads and the processing here appears to work at a number of levels. Although I’m far from familiar with sampling etc., Casserley represents more than an effects box processing a signal. In total, this is an intriguing recording and another good argument to support the contention that THE interesting music is now being made at the margins of improvisation, electronica and pop music where players are willing to overlap boundaries and approaches to music making.” Bruce Adams
“Many years ago I came across a leaflet put out by Yamaha written to introduce budding musicians to different areas of musical activity. Surprisingly improvised music got a mention with the description that “here technical virtuosity is prized at the expense of emotional content”. While disagreeing I assumed, at the time, that the copywriter had Evan Parker in mind when he wrote these words. Evan is a technically stunning player whose contributions to a range of music from the ‘abstract’ improvisations of Supersession, the robust free jazz of his own trio, his work with kenny Wheeler, Scott Walker, Robert Wyatt etc etc are all marked by his individuality. Lawrence Casserley utilises a system designed at the STEIM foundation in Amsterdam. STEIM was established in the 60s to give musicians greater access to electronic hardware and know how with specific reference to ‘live’ work. The resultant collaboration between Parker and Casserley may not be totally new ground. Evan himself has allowed his sound to be transformed by other electronic collaborators – most notably Walter Pratti. While specific areas of Evan’s playing are explored with obvious relish – his slaptongueing, the multiphonics – far more concessions are made to the machine than to any previous acoustic fellow traveller. The rewards here are as much structural as textural. It is about the invention and execution of Casserley’s sculpting and the way Evan plays with what is being created that is absorbing. Ultimately it is a very human experience.” [Gus Garside]