Image of Shelly Knots and Mark Carroll by Jerry Serjeant
For the last of Martin Donkin’s KOAN instalments this year, the programme focuses on collaborative improvisation. By enthusing individual musicians to risk experimenting live together, the evening was set up as a roll of the dice: would instincts synergise, combine or go another way?
Having wanted to work with Adam Denton for a long time, Donkin finally had that wish realised earlier this autumn. As trubba not, alongside Nigel of Coalburns, he got to improvise with the musician responsible, in part, for the Trans/Human project (amongst other journeys). This first operation together with Denton took place outside; at the Bandstand in Exhibition Park.
Now, under the roof of The Globe this evening, with the curtains closed and the lights down, the trio explored the collaboration further, involving strings of pearls, cymbals and guitar pick-up manipulation amongst other tools and techniques. Nigel of Coalburns, poised in his seat, often held taut facial expressions whilst he delivered heavily reverberated vocal tones. Altogether, this was a haunted sonic walk through an eerily quiet and uncanny place.
Next up, under generic lighting, James Wyness manipulated drones and patterns from his laptop/mixer set-up, whilst Christian Alderson gave a typically furtive and skilful development of patterns from his drum kit.
Whilst Wyness coloured the horizon of the soundscape, like a sun in different stages of rising and setting, Alderson played in the foreground. Sticking patterns on skin fell in-and-out of phase with loops of noise and pitched-tone motifs from Wyness’ laptop. The piece ended with a crescendo of percussion, as if teeth were grinding harder and harder.
Image of James Wyness & Christian Alderson by Jerry Serjeant
Weaver of electronics, Shelly Knotts and explorer of the future-cello, Mark Carroll had the darkness restored as they started the final set of the evening. The piece reached an exquisite tension midway, after Carroll had been exploring a spider-esque tapping technique at the bridge of his electric-cello, and Knotts had guided the sound to the last stop before silence. The resolution came as a resurrection; a lot of unsettling loops, with subtly juxtaposing dynamics, all building the detail of an increasingly thunderous wave. Big smiles and a confident handshake between the pair at the end, as the audience applauded, showed that this performance energised both musicians for another possible future duet.
I highly recommend Donkin’s KOAN evenings, for his curation is amongst the most focused, and the talented people he engages for each instalment are always fascinating and specifically tailored to a thematic programme. The capacity attendance here at KOAN 4 will definitely have their eyes peeled for the date of next episode.