The first piece, which shares the title of the album, lasts some twenty-one minutes and rips out of your speakers from the moment it gets going. The layered tones and occasional dramatic flourishes and fluctuations form patterns that shift slowly as the piece progresses in an almost Felmanesque manner, the comparison arising from the way the structures gradually change almost without notice rather than any stylistic similarities. The music does burn into your brain a bit if listened to at volume for long enough. There are comparisons to be drawn with Sachiko M’s more minimal solo compositions, but while the general tone of the music sits in a similar range there is much more detail and far more events taking place in Grundy’s piece. The music feels a bit like listening to harsh noise music, but at a much more bearable volume and with a more subtle use of texture and timing.

This is mature and well defined music, quite unusual and all the better for that. Burnt onto a handwritten CDr or not, the two pieces here stand up alongside other more “professionally” produced CDs with no problem at all. A fresh new name to keep an eye on if you ask me.

Grundy’s work, at least as represented here, certainly falls well within parameters established by Nakamura and any number of other electronicists. Two tracks, the first of which, “unbidden”, is a kind of harsh, layered drone which, to my ears, lacks the subtlety and richness necessary to fascinate; it fluctuates but not in a manner that surprises or excites. It does, oddly, wear rather well on repeated listens, one’s ears accommodating to a degree, searching out hidden strands, which are there, if faintly heard. The second, longer (44 minutes) track, the unfortunately titled “Borne on the 4th of July”, fares much better. It unspools quite naturally, the drones having thinned and spread apart, acquiring their own character (sometimes insectile) more as quivering tendrils than slabs. “Quivery”, in fact, is a decent descriptor of much of the piece, as it sounds a-tingle with spiky energy while retaining something of a calm demeanor, no mean feat, like some one walking slowly yet about to explode. He does explode a bit, at least begin to effervesce…Nice work, makes me eager to hear more from Grundy.

Having recently mentioned the netlabel Woe Betide, I just found two more submissions from them crammed down the side of my expensive leather sofa. Unbidden (WOE BETIDE 001) is a solo electronics record from David Grundy where he’s performing tentative manipulations with monotonal frequencies on the title track, in ways that require the listener to tilt head like a pivoted camera to appreciate the variances of his sonorities. While that piece is quite rich and steely, ‘Borne of the 4th of July’ is a somewhat grungier foray into the worlds of forbidden “harsh noise”…


Mark Anthony Whiteford is a 52-year old saxophonist, offering three solo pieces on “Zariba”. The first is a brief but lovely sliver, breathy, somewhat reminiscent of that quiet Braxton track on “For Alto” (a piece that resonates still, these 42 years later). The other two cuts are far lengthier and incorporate radios, voice and electronics. “Radio Breath” is pretty much that, sputtering alto and subtle integration of radio (static and faint voices). It works well enough, filling up the space capably, one of those pieces that would benefit greatly from being heard in situ, I think, as opposed to on disc where the sound has room to spread out, but it’s fine and reasonably engrossing here as well. “Blood” is perhaps a little busier overall (though with long quiet periods as well) and somehow holds together less well for me, the sounds interjected carrying more of a random aspect. But not bad at all–seriously intended, generally well constructed.

The other item is Zariba (WOE BETIDE 002), a sax record by Mark Anthony Whiteford, which includes the rather nifty ‘Radio Breath’, a piece for alto sax and two radios. Potentially very interesting, this 32-minute workout is subdued and quiet but no less of an endurance test than Grundy’s lengthy electronic endeavours; Whiteford does indeed appear to be allowing his muted, minimal and breathy passages to rise and fall in sympathy with the barely-audible white noise emerging from his detuned radio sets. There’s also ‘Blood’, which uses sax, percussion, electronics and voice, and has some conceptual connection to the G20 protests, a political dimension on which Grundy expounds in his notes. Not a violent piece as you might at first expect, it’s more of a sullen and melancholic wail of defeat.


From the internet label Woe Betide Records we received a copy of their third release, The Cambridge Free Improvisation Society In Hell (WOE BETIDE 003). It’s quite good music, too. I’m very interested to learn that free improv has reached the point where Universities are forming societies enabling students to make music in this way, and it seems that CFIS feel they’re lagging behind Oxford, Birmingham and Cheltenham in their endeavours. Let’s hope we get to hear about some of these regional musicians after they graduate and that they present some competition to the prevailing improvisational landscape, which can at times appear a bit London-centric. Here, David Grundy, David Curtington, Nathan Bettany and Daniel Larwood play a number of conventional acoustic instruments (woodwinds, piano, guitar, percussion) with a smattering of electronic sparkle-dust from Grundy’s laptop; what’s impressive is how foreign and alien they make their instruments appear, refusing conventional timbres and effects. I keep hoping for a little more boldness and thrust in their approach, but maybe it’s the recording quality that falls a little short of conveying the full richness of their enthused exploits. They seem at their most agitated on the 18-minute ‘Hell’ which opens the disk, but ‘Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind’ displays more evidence of interaction and dynamics. The performance was part of a Dante project organised by the Professor of Italian and English literature at Robinson College, so be prepared to enter the “selva oscura” when you spin this.

VERY free improv. Think New York Eye & Ear Control or Sun Ra’s freer moments. Intertwining woodwinds crescendo in vicious noise over crashing percussion and moaning/screaming/chanting voice sections. Makes sense for a second before being full deconstructed all over again, leaving you to pick up the pieces.

Formed by students at Cambridge University, Cambridge Free Improvisation Society plays some pretty ‘dark’ improv music where there’s nearly no silence, the occasional shriek or two, multiple instruments blaring out all at once, and screeches of said instruments. Some nicely played improv music.

A whole other world of sound, of sonic exploration.

The group is actually just a quartet, though they make enough noise for many more–Grundy (laptop, recorder, piano), David Curington (oboe, piano), Nathan Bettany (oboe, xaphoon [?–ah! a bamboo saxophone, cool]) and Daniel Larwood (electric guitar). The second track [is] a loose improv with wavering guitar and those oboes, relatively nice and dreamy with enough grit to get by; nice, quasi-gospel-y piano at the close. The brief duo with Grundy and Larwood is the highlight of the disc for me, a delicate piece hovering near “Moonchild” territory…

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