Top 10 of 2011
1: Matt Chamberlain, Viktor Krauss and Dan Phelps - MODULAR
When Matt Chamberlain tweeted that a new instrumental project he was involved in was available, I was pretty much already sold. I adored (and still do) his solo album from a few years ago. When I realised that it also involved Dan Phelps, whose guitar work as part of Tori Amos’ band in 2007 I found absolutely amazing (indeed, revelatory in places), then it was an instant purchase, no question. This collection of six sprawling tracks is just amazing. It does what all good improvised music should - players start, move around each other, come together, separate, know when to make a noise and when not to. It’s not all improvised, according to the notes - it has been ‘improvised, mangulated and overdubbed’, so the best of all worlds I would suggest.
It also helps that the liner notes are a beautifully produced book featuring scientific notes on the ‘hum of the natural world’, and photographs of some beautifully designed technology capturing this hum in varying locations. It never makes clear whether this equipment has actually recorded anything or if it’s just a conceptual conceit used to inspire, or simply categorise the pieces. Either way, I don’t think it really matters, and I probably don’t want to actually know. I like thought that someone’s recorded a few hours of rocky outcrop and worked that into a piece of music.
I should tell you about my favourite track off here, “Hollow Earth”. The first half is pretty neat, consolidating and then breaking up, lots of melodic percussive sounds, and over the first few minutes really building up to the solid groove it finally hits at around four and a half minutes. This groove is worked through for another few minutes before dissolving into a few guitar wails and some more melodic percussion stuff, layers up to a nice shuffle of odds and ends, all very nice and casual, and then slides down into the last three minutes which left me just awestruck. As the shuffle trails to a halt, like a slowing train, noises build up around it and…I can’t describe it in a way that does what it sounds like any justice. These noises (all drone-like) all come together, rising in pitch and urgency until they eventually find a moment of harmony, which then lifts and carries up and out and my word it is divine - possibly literally, but I might just be getting carried away. I do that sometimes.
So, too long; didn’t read? I love this record, which has been put together by very talented musicians whose work I admire. It’s really very good.
Top Tracks: Hollow Earth…oh man, they’re all good. there’s only 6 of them anyway. Here’s my Molly Meldrum moment - do yourself a favour and go pick yourself up a copy.