Tasos Stamou/Bison/ Eli & Fergus/Dominic Deane @ Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds

Posted by vibrations on 01-05-16

This was the latest gig put on by the LIME (Leeds Improvised Music and Experimentation) collective, the peripatetic sonic adventurers steadily carving a valuable niche for themselves in the margins of the city’s music community. The Hyde Park Book Club is a tiny venue, and, arguably, ideal for marginal styles of music that can only ever expect to attract small audiences. Ironically, the place is packed, which helps to generate a great atmosphere, although not so great if you’re squished at the front dodging trombone slides and double bass heads….

A late addition to the bill, Leeds composer and multi-instrumentalist Dominic Deane did a solo set of low key improvised noise generated from a few effects boxes and keyboards. Deane had to do a good deal of searching before he lighted on a rattling hum, followed by a pulsing throb that provided a fruitful purchase for his ideas.

While a duet of trombone and double bass may not be everyone’s idea of a must see combo, Eli-Ponder Twardy and Fergus Quill respectively prove everyone to be utterly wrong. The duo actually play as an accompaniment to US composer Nathan Corder’s new composition ‘Web’, which makes the performance a ‘world premiere’ no less. ‘Web’ is constructed from actual or simulated field recordings and Twardy and Quill use it to prompt responses and as fuel for dialogue between the two instruments. The pair play with drive, wit, invention and an almost slapstick style of musical humour, and the whole thing is a triumph.

The most conventional group of the night, Bison is a jazz quartet featuring Matt Cliffe on tenor sax and flute, Joel Stedman on electric guitar, Oscar Moysey on bass and Salvador on drums. The set is made up of a series of composed pieces liberally leavened with improvisation from all four players but linked with connecting passages to make a continuous performance. The style evokes the sound and approach of US free jazz from the 1960’s but contained within a compositional framework, with the last piece having a driving groove of insanely huge proportions. All four play with great skill and invention, in particular Salvador’s emphatic drums provide explosive power and drive, and Stedman’s angular guitar pushes the music into some pretty wild shapes.

London based Greek composer and sound artist Tasos Stamou does that thing that all solo touring noise musicians do – pulls a heap of knotted wires, weird metal boxes and what could pass for kitchen utensils from a rucksack and sets up a table top full of curiosities that even when assembled give no real clue as to what the results will sound like. Fortunately, Stamou has done this sort of thing countless times before and he knows exactly what his set up can do and how to coax out exactly the sound he wants. What follows is a mesmerising display of controlled electroacoustic improvisation, with a prepared and contact mic’d zither as the main sound source. Random noise and sprays of sound become off kilter loops that add dimension to the oscillating pulses. Stamou manipulates the zither in odd ways to tease out new synthetic and oddly organic sounds – a metal bracket is placed upright on the strings and bowed to produce an eerie high pitched moan, and a rubber band (yup, a bloody rubber band) is hooked to the zither frame and stretched and plucked to sound like a double bass (Stamou simply lets go of it when he’s finished with it and it pings into the audience). Thousands of people attempt this kind of music and performance but few can do it as well as Tasos Stamou.

Steve Walsh




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