Graham Dunning: Turntable, snare drum and objects
Edward Lucas: Trombone
Recorded in the lost hamlet of Ratcliffe, London, 2019
Improvising duo Ed Lucas and Graham Dunning explore texture, timbre, dynamics and drones. Ed Lucas plays trombone, sometimes augmented with controlled feedback, and has had many associations with improvising musicians in London and beyond. Graham Dunning uses turntable with field recordings pressed to dublate, along with snare drum and objects, focusing on tactile soundmaking. “End of a Cable” is their first album together.
2. Stone Steps
3. Sweet Red Cliff
7. Intönal Causeway
released june 2nd, 2019
Bandcamp Daily – The best experimental music, june 2019
The small, sparse sounds that Graham Dunning and Edward Lucas improvise on End of a Cable may qualify as minimal, but they’re never static. The album’s sense of constant motion is most clear in Lucas’s trombone playing, which punctuates so many moments that it feels like he’s conducting with his instrument. But more likely, he’s responding to Dunning’s array of noises—generated with turntable, drums, and various “objects”—which themselves become responses to Lucas. Dunning’s turntable sounds are field recordings which he pressed to acetate records to use as instruments, and there’s a buzzing environmental quality to the pieces here. But the best thing about End of a Cable is its balance of naturalism and control. It’s all organic and loose, but one always feels the presence of Dunning and Lucas, picking sounds at just the right moments.
A fiery static and fluttering trombone invite you to the End of a Cable, the just-released effort by Graham Dunning & Edward Lucas on a brand-new tape label out of Spain, TSSS Tapes. And this is a welcome effort on all accounts. These seven short pieces by the duo blend a peculiar mix of sound objects, instruments and the turntable. Do we hear bats as the two slough and drain their breath? The tactile surfaces, squawks and distortions all play well together in this collision of warp and recess.
There are dissonant ruptures along the way, as they rattle and inflate the conversation with ersatz, post-jazz flourishes, synthesizing a keen balance between whaling blurts and lil’ frenetic microsounds. At times a sort of quirky utilitarianism seems at play (Disorderly) and at others it feels as though Dunning & Lucas want to mock the droids that made so many modern day sci-fi classics sing. It’s perfectly imbalanced.
My standout track is the reserved Rotary, which has this snakelike in-wait style with these short blurts of coloration, coming off like a riddle unfurling slowly. Through the rubberized pangs and shallow silences, squall and drag, the lethargic and exuberant moments, is a record that begs to be heard.
Echoes and Dust
What happens when you team up a London-based improvisational trombone player with an experimental musician best known for their mechanical techno sets? This might sound like the set up to an elaborate joke wherein the punchline only means something to people wearing turtlenecks but, in fact, it is the question posed by Spanish tape label TSSS when they agreed to put out a cassette of the pair’s efforts a short while back.
The aforementioned mechanical techno project, which was put together almost on a whim, is by one Graham Dunning and has since proven almost overwhelmingly popular. If you haven’t seen what he can do with a turntable, a couple of retort stands, and a bucket of ping-pong balls, then I strongly recommend amending that. The other half of this duo – Edward Lucas (the large trumpet wielder) – has been at the heart of the London improvisational scene for quite some time. He plays with a number of collectives including the Hyperion Ensemble and the London Experimental Ensemble, and he is also co-founder of the Earshots Recordings label.
Neither of these two artists are exactly famed for their conventional approaches so it doesn’t really come as a surprise to discover that End of a Cable is a disconcerting, discombobulating hot pot of sonic explorations. Sounds simper and boom, they ruffle the air and sidle in. One moment we are amidst loops of squealing crickets and the next, static blasts and brass warbles. If it’s structure that you’re after, you’d best point your ears elsewhere.
Ironically, the track ‘Disorderly’ steers closest to expected musical blueprints. It rises into a bursting cacophony before gently dying away only to flare up once again with sheets of grain seemingly patted, rattled, and bothered whilst a whistling drone descends opposite the opining trombone. Then on ‘Silt’ we get gates clanking, shrieking metal, and crackling embers. Every so often the turntable stops, making the record scratch as if revealing an unexpected plot twist in a dubious trailer for a Hollywood comedy. This then expands into a bristling and stormy blister that drowns out any remaining nuance.
What this pair do succeed in doing is delicately inverting expectations and understanding through curling layers of textures and drones. ‘Intönal Causeway’ is squeezed out like the breath of a snuffly cat. We have the most melodic moment on the record as tight cheese wire strings are plucked and the asthmatic feline struggles for life through jangles and a hopeful mini harp. It’s the sound of dredging the land beneath a village on an icy outcrop until all traces of their existence tumbles into murky depths.
With experimental, improvised music there is a tendency for its listeners to attempt to intellectualise these creations. To find through roads linking madness to method, as if some justification were needed. The reality of it is that these pieces are as enjoyable on guttural and visceral levels as they are on cerebral. Let the sounds transport you to medieval villages, where scraping, hammering, and clunking were part of the daily soundscape. Add to that methane-heavy brass outbursts and you’re surrounded by milk-lugging wildlife. Throw in some throaty bass loops and the sky darkens forebodingly. It turns out that what you get when you combine these two musical pioneers is something stark, enveloping, and begging for investigation.
Both musicians are great figures of experimental jazz scene. Musicians are playing together with famous jazz stars, they’re very well-known on world-wide jazz scene. Graham Dunning has interesting style, inspiring playing manner, unique sound and original point of view. His music is totally based on free improvisation, experimental jazz and some ethnic tunes of Italian and Southern Europe countries traditional rhythms. Edward Lucas is another one great improviser – his music is filled with passion, innovative ideas, expressive playing manner and modern expressions who fill all the musical pattern. Experimental, creative, free and avant-garde jazz, free improvisation and experimental music are joined together in his improvisations. Both musicians are open to new ideas, fresh tunes and inventive, radical or provocative ways of playing. Their music is based on fresh new strain and brand, original and inspiring sound.
Experiments, wild and radical ideas, synthetic and open forms and wide stylistic range are connected on “End of a Cable”. Both musicians are demonstrating their musical knowledge, bright and individual sound and authentic, specific, radical, expressive and driving ways of improvising. Musicians manage to create incredible instrumental section – it’s based on synthesis of experimental and traditional ways of playing, as well as special effects, expansion of technical abilities, extraction of strange, weird or peculiar timbres, gorgeous ornaments and coloristics. The music is wide and dynamic – musicians are going through different moods and expressions. Vivid, bright, sophisticated, frantic, furious, hollowing, angry, passionate, heavy, deep, light, flying, astonishing or surprising – it’s just impossible to predict the next turn of the music. The sound also changes – from natural, sweet and remarkable it gets rough, tough, heavy, ambient, striking, intense, low or filled with strange timbres and colorful expressions. Musicians create multi-colorful and illustrative musical pattern, which’s also enchanting, expressive, moving, vivid and bright. The musical pattern has open form, is based on free improvisation, sharp disonances at the harmonic pattern, dynamic rhythmic, gorgeous background and all kinds of rhythms, tunes, sounds and expressions. All music is a nice mix of experimental and contemporary academical music, experimental jazz and free improvisations. Musicians are experimenting on each case of musical language – especially on instrumental and timbral section. Edward Lucas is combining together heavy, deep and solid trombone’s tunes and all kinds of electronics. Stable, slow, cracking or solemn solos are contrasting to adventurous, hollowing, furiously powerful, passionate and sparkling culminations. These episodes are similar to full blasts of energy mixed up to repetitive rhythms, monotonic series, sharp disonances, strange tunes and peculiar chords. Special effects, imitations, alterated and modified timbres, loops, ambient, glitch, sonoristic and concrete music – that’s just a part of all wide range of expressions and playing techniques of electronics. Graham Dunning is experimenting with various instruments – his rhythmic section is leading, passionate and bright. Rare combos, eclectic pairs, exotic tunes, special effects, astonishing and fascinating experiments are the main compounds of his music. Low and high, slow and fast, furious and soft, peculiar and traditional, rare, exotic or bright, modern and original – musician manages to fuse together all types of rhythms, motions and sounds. Both musicians are improvising just marvelous – their music is a great mix of contemporary academical, experimental, concrete and sonoristic music, electronics, free improvisations, the innovations of experimental jazz and the roots of American and European avant-garde jazz. All these elements are perfectly joined together and make bright, modern and expressive sound.
Spanish label Tsss Tapes are now present here with their third release and they become an interesting voice in improvised music, here with another duet. This time, Graham Dunning uses the unlikely combination of a turntable, snare drum and objects and Edward Lucas on trombone. I don’t think I heard of him before, Dunning has been in these virtual pages a couple of times. Lucas is also the one who did the recording and mix of this. There are seven pieces on this release, which is perhaps not what you hear when you play this. Perhaps it is part of the nature of improvised music that we can’t discern one piece from the next, even if there are a few seconds of silence in the music. The music here is pretty radical throughout. I am not sure what the turntable does here, safe for some common scratch like affairs, the trombone sounds very much like one would expect a trombone to sound, and Lucas plays sustaining tones, but also at times hectic, short ones. The snare drum at times also fairly ‘normal’, but scanned with objects it takes on a more abstract form. It is a form I like a bit more than a more regular free improvisation approach. They do a fine job at that as well, but perhaps the surprise is not really there for me. Especially the second side of this I dug very well. It was pretty radical sounding and that’s what I like best. It might upset a few more regular listeners of this kind of music.
Free Form Freakout, FFFoxy Podcast #143, June 23rd, 2019
WFMU, Strength Through Failure, june 6th, 2019
WFMU, Radio Ravioli, june 14th, 2019
WRCT, Radio Free Radio, June 29th, 2019