Posted on Nov 20th 2007 01:49 am
Rump Recordings 2007
07 Tracks. 59mins37secs
Icarus, the duo formed of Sam Britton and Ollie Bown, began life as an experimental drum’n’bass formation, releasing records on Recordings Of Substance, Output, Hydrogen Dukebox, Temporary Residence and their own Not Applicable imprint. In recent years, their work has become much more focused on pure sonic experimentation, with albums such as I Tweet The Birdie Electric (The Leaf Label, 2004) and Carnivalesque (Not Applicable) showcasing incredibly dense and complex, yet light and airy, sonic formations, often built out of lengthy improv sessions.
The pair’s latest project is centred around two epic sister pieces, First Inf(e)rænce and Second Inf(e)rænce, each spanning well over fifteen minutes. Recorded live in May 2006 at Les Abattoires in Toulouse, France, during a single session, these two improvisations are amongst the most complex and intricate pieces the band have recorded. The first piece begins with interferences and extensive signal processing, but as the soundscapes morphs into a much more arid core formation of light percussive noise, the ambience deepens. The piece becomes progressively alive as a myriad of sounds come and go, climb on each other and fight for the slightest moment of attention, evoking the apparent random commotion of an ant colony in full effervescence. This level of hyperactivity only lasts a few minutes, and is eventually brought back to a much lower intensity as Britton and Bown introduce a surprisingly linear beat and reduce the amount of sounds with which they play to a minimum. Soon though, the rhythmic pattern disintegrates and the scope is once more left free for dense noise collages to populate it.
Second Inf(e)rænce kicks off on a much more musical foot with a few jazz-influenced piano chords, but these processed sounds are rapidly stretched and distorted to become simple pointers in a soundscape that chimes and prickles from all sides. Once again, the piece goes through a series of transformations over its seventeen minutes, although the processed piano remains, in various forms, a constant pretty much throughout. Icarus keep up with the erratic nature of the piece much more consistently here, dropping the sonic tension only occasionally. This contributes to Second Inf(e)rænce being a much more demanding creation than its predecessor.
The rest of the album constitutes of five shorter pieces made from amalgams of live and edited work, with additional contributions from clarinettist Lothar Ohlmeier and cellist Susie Winkworth on Rugkiks and Jyske. The album opens with the rather gentle Keet, which demonstrates a surprising light-heartedness and flirts with conventional melodic forms, albeit partly hidden from sight by a dense sonic carpet. Both Rugkiks and Jyske explore the confines of contemporary electronic music and musique concrete, while on Volks, Icarus incorporate crowd noises as part of a piece which begins in rather subtle mood and builds up to a much more consistent structure toward the end.
With Sylt, Icarus continue to develop their highly experimental format and manage to bring in fresh elements without destabilising their usual template. Sam Britton and Ollie Bown create uncompromising experimental improvised music that manages to be at once evocative and captivating, and Sylt only serves to strongly reinforce their vision.
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