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“Mathilde 253”

Artist: Han-Earl Park

Date of Release: 01/01/2011

Catalogue no: SLAMCD 528

Label: SLAM

Price: £9.99

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Charles Hayward (drums, percussion and melodica)
Han-earl Park (guitar)
Ian Smith (trumpet and flugelhorn)
Lol Coxhill (saxophone) tracks 6 and 7.

Mathilde 253 is the real-time musical meeting between legendary avant-rock drummer Charles Hayward (This Heat, Massacre), “careful and crafty” guitarist Han-earl Park (Paul Dunmall, Kato Hideki), and mainstay of the London improvised music scene Ian Smith (Derek Bailey, London Improvisers’ Orchestra). Mathilde 253 was born out of an opportunity to explore the spontaneous mashup of avant-rock, African-American creative musics, European free improvisation and noise. Joined by the veteran iconoclastic saxophonist Lol Coxhill, this recording documents the weaving of physical virtuosity and humorous sound poetics, a patchwork of restraint, subtlety and recklessness.

 

Reviews

 

01/03/2011 Daniel Spicer,

This new improvising group—named after a large asteroid circling our
sun—draws disparate personalities into one eccentric orbit. Han-Earl
Park, a guitarist of Korean descent, residing in Ireland, is as at
home in underground Noise as he is dueting with free jazz heroes like
Paul Dunmall. Trumpeter Ian Smith is a stalwart of the London improv
scene and drummer Charles Hayward is best known for his work with
seminal post-Punk experimenters This Heat. On these live recordings
they generate a surprising amount of heat. Park uses pedals to smudge
and smear chords or rolls out strange robotic grumblings, a technician
playing electricity as much as the guitar. Smith has a high, taut
attach, like a more tuneful version of Donald Ayler’s pure energy. And
Hayward—despite a penchant for tight grooves—makes a good fist of
playing freely, only slightly marred by a somewhat lumpen bass drum.
Veteran saxophonist Coxhill rounds it out to a quartet for two tunes,
making this a very satisfying debut. Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise, March 2011

 

01/03/2011 Richard Pinnell

Over the last week or so I have listened through a few times to a CD I was sent by a group that can probably be easily described as belonging to the older, busier, perhaps more jazz-infused end of free improvisation. The disc is a new release by a group named Mathilde 253 released on the Slam label, a long established imprint based about five miles up the road from me here. This is probably the first release I have listened to on the label for about fifteen years. Mathilde 253 then are the core group of Charles Hayward, (drums, percussion, melodica) Han-Earl Park (guitar) and Ian Smith (trumpet, flugelhorn). On the last two of the seven tracks here the trio is augmented by the familiar saxophone of Lol Coxhill.
To begin with, I should make clear that I was, and am, really pleased to have been sent this CD. While this far end of the improv scene isn’t an area I usually find myself frequenting, the connections between this music and what I listen to most nights is clear, and my CD shelves do still contain a fair number of similarly sounding CDs that date back to my early experiences with improv. I may have moved my listening away from this busier, itchy, occasionally slightly melodic area of music in recent years but its great to delve back into it from time to time, and the challenge of finding enjoyment in this CD was one I approached with much relish.
Ultimately then, this CD sounds pretty much how I thought it might, a bustling, talkative seventy-four minutes made up of angular, Baileyesque electric guitar, some fantastic drum splashes mixed with occasional bursts of less traditional percussive sounds such as the small metallic chimes heard int he opening seconds of the album, and the chattery, conversational style of the trumpet and horn. For some reason the music conjures images of pet mice running about in a cage, rushing from a play wheel to a source of food, to somewhere else again, occasionally stopping abruptly to take in what is going on around them, often bumping into one another, existing and interacting together at high speed in a combined space, working as a unit and yet giving the impression of all going about their business oblivious to one another. Extended metaphors to one side for a moment though, the playing here is very fine, a tightly woven mass of sounds with no one real dominating voice but each musician expressive and energetic. The music is all about the conversation, but a real heart-on-the-sleeve collision course of a conversation, but nevertheless the result of the musicians listening to one another and responding. The addition of Coxhill’s softer soprano on the last two pieces do slow the music a little, but the jazz credentials remain. If the music’s progression is a little less choppy then melody and hints at standardised rhythm creep in, but the improvised discussion carries on, perhaps the words are less heated but the debate remains of interest.
I’ll be honest, my personal taste in improvisation leans more towards the slower, more textural, less hectic call and response strand of the music, but that doesn’t mean that once in a while I can’t enjoy dipping my toes into the more flared musicianship of albums like Mathilde 253 and enjoying the sensation. The argument against this music of course is that it is unoriginal and makes no attempt to push at new boundaries, but then if I think about it, so few of the CDs I normally enjoy succeed at this either. Mathilde 253 is a well executed example of how pleasing this music can be, and while I may not be in a huge hurry to alter my listening preferences right now I did enjoy following the twists and turns, arguments and accompanying flourishes on this CD and am very glad that the musicians saw fit to send it my way. Richard Pinnell

 

22/02/2011 Ken Waxman

Riveting in its scope and cohesion, this seven-track slice of Free Improv captures the sounds made one night at a London club by an ad-hoc assemblage of players, who ordinarily may not have been expected to jell so effectively.
Ostensible draw is Avant-Rock percussionist Charles Hayward, who over the years has not only been part of bands such as This Heat and Massacre, but also improvised with the likes of soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill, bassist Hugh Hopper and composer Heiner Goebbels. Most of this gig at Café OTO pairs him with trumpeter and flugelhornist Ian Smith, a mainstay of the London Improvisers' Orchestra, who traded Dublin for the British capital years ago; and sharp-witted, Cork-based guitarist Han-earl Park, who has played with saxman Paul Dunmall among others. Coxhill himself adds his idiosyncratic saxophone delivery to the trio on the final two tracks.
Before Coxhill’s reed tones supplement the sound mix, Hayward shows that he’s a lot more than a John Bonham or Phil Collins-wanna-be with his inventive variety of percussion implements plus rhythm strategies that include the melodic. Horizontally blowing into a tube that connects a free reed system with the board, he’s additionally produces flexible, accordion-like puffs which meld with Smith’s capillary triplets and bent, nephritic textures during the nearly 18½-minute introductory “Kalimantan”. Contrapuntal inventions are subtly yet simultaneously appended by the drummer’s off-side drags and bouncing rim shots, as Park deconstructs his styling with rasgueado chording and string-snapping twangs.
As they continue, the three prod the tuner every way before exposing its final variant. The treatment consists of blowsy pedal-point from the trumpeter; shuffles and drags from Hayward; and remarkable strategies from the guitarist which involve investing each string with a different weight as he coaxes tones from near the machine head all the way down past the bridge. Half-valve plunger work from Smith includes bent note flutters; while the drummer’s railway signal-crossing-like bell ringing and repetitive cymbal slams provide perfect matches for the guitarist’s flattened string patterns and note extensions.
Subsequent improvisations find Hayward, at one point, banging his wood blocks and cow bell beside Park’s near-effortless, minimalist guitar strokes, shakes and strums in counterpoint with Smith’s staccato breaks and internal blubbering. Alternating braying triplets or grace note quivers from the trumpeter are repeated as often as necessary to link up with the percussionist’s nerve beats and upturning smacks and ruffs as the guitarist’s slurred fingering, distorted licks and clanging strings produce a sound midway between Derek Bailey and Derek and the Dominos.
Coxhill’s distinctive and shrill flutter tonguing adds a new dimension to the last 24-odd minutes of the session. On “Aachen” for instance, his vocalized lines and split tones make common cause with Park’s rhythmically discursive guitar plinking. Elsewhere he vamps a POMO shout chorus that links his reed bites with Smith’s rubato peeps and slithering squeaks as the drummer plays a Rock-styled backbeat. Spetrofluctuation is audible from both horn players and by the set’s completion the pressurized cacophony is harmonized in such a way that individual excursions include melodic quivers, brass bluster, false-register reed asides, guiro-like friction and prominent bass-drum rumbles.
A textbook example of high-class improvising, Mathilde 253’s lack of even Free Music so-called big names shouldn’t be a reason for it to not reach the intelligent audience it deserves.
--Ken Waxman http://www.jazzword.com/review/127410

 

01/02/2011 Brian Morton

Mathilde 253 is one of those ‘name’ groups that sprang fully-formed from a single playing moment - in fact the very moment at London’s Café Oto last April that is documented on this debut CD – but seems to have been around for much longer. As far as the individual players are concerned, trumpeter Ian Smith is now a significant figure on the Emanem axis of British improvisers; news that Mathilde 253 are shortly to tour Ireland with Wadada Leo Smith has certain comic potential but also prompts the thought that a second trumpeter, even a distinguished international guest, might be gilding the lily. Ian Smith is a formidable technician and a profoundly intuitive music maker, with the ability to deliver exactly the right sound, or very often the right sonic texture, at the psychological moment. An ideal group or ensemble player, he seems remarkably free of ego in performance, often preferring to wait out passages before delivering a tiny killer stroke. One knows that this was a Miles Davis stratagem, but it’s the other Smith he resembles most completely, though some of his articulations here sound as if they might be influenced by Bill Dixon.Guitarist Han-earl Park is a musical philosopher. He works in a variety of fields, develops low-intensity electronic devices, often for context-specific performances, and like his playing partner never insists on grabbing the spotlight. One of the delights of this live session is that one very frequently can’t distinguish who is making particular sounds. There’s not much idiomatic guitar-playing, though Park is very much in the Derek Bailey rather than the Keith Rowe line; he uses relatively orthodox technique to unorthodox ends.Drummer (and occasional melodica player) Charles Hayward is perhaps the best known of the three, largely due to this role with pioneering, Camberwell-based This Heat, one of the most experimental ‘punk’ groups to emerge on the London scene during the late ‘70s. The group’s sessions for John Peel and the bootleg of their 1980 concert at the Institute of Contemporary Arts are key documents in British creative music of the last thirty years. It’s fascinating to find Hayward in this setting, taking up the mantle – different as they were – of the late Steve Harris. Mathilde 253 has something of the guttural authority and generosity of gesture one associates with Zaum, which Harris led until his untimely death. They also make a specific virtue of building other musicians into the group language. Leo Smith is on the face of it a surprising addition. Lol Coxhill makes more immediate sense. An immensely thoughtful, but eternally self-effacing player, he slots in here for just the two final cuts, ‘Aachen’ and ‘Oaxaca’, and in a curious way acts as a kind of chorus/facilitator, summing up and simplifying aspects of the group language, rather than challenging or antagonising it, as guest players very often do. It’s a long set, but has sufficient underlying momentum to pass with deceptive speed. It takes an alert listener to distinguish occasional quietuses in the process with track endings, and there is a moment between ‘Ishikari’ and ‘Jixi’ when it sounds almost as if one aspect of the previous piece has been filleted out for more sustained attention. Smith favors long mongrelly growls and scales that ascend and descend in illogical ways, like the stairs in an M C Escher print. Hayward has a very distinct sense of time underneath the freedom. It’s not untypical of British free drummers to imply some kind of steady pulse. Eddie Prévost does it, John Stevens did it far more often than anyone supposed, Tonys Oxley and Levin almost always do. I’d have picked Hayward out as a Brit even if there had been no accompanying details. This is an exciting new venture for him and for the others. One can reasonably expect unexpected things from Park, who is a delightful shape-shifter and Smith always repays the closest attention, and claims it with sudden open-horn breakouts if the fabric of the music gets too smooth and uninflected. Great stuff and a disc that reassert’s Slam’s importance as a free music imprint. –Brian Morton Moment's Notice, February, 2011

 

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