Two groups at March’s Ashley-Wales-curated-improv-night Back In Your Town, at The Red Rose club, Finsbury Park. (Sorry, no decent pictures, again.)
Maurizio Ravalico & Isambard Khroustaliov
First up was the duo of Maurizio Ravalico (percussion) and Isambard Khroustaliov (laptop). Ravalico was really impressive. (He has a great website with some nice mp3’s, including a few with Khroustaliov…) He had three sort-of upright drums, on top of which he had various things like gongs/cymbals, singing bowls (??), marbles, etc, creating some very captivating pulsating, tumbling textures. Khroustaliov was providing some processed feedback, that helped to sustain these great waves of sound. Ravalico explained that the pieces weren’t entirely improvised; they had been ‘worked out’ somewhat before hand. But this is good; the music was essentially quite minimalist (probably the wrong word, really), but they were able to avoid any dead-air, and it was all really engaging.
Roland Ramanan / Robert Jarvis / Javier Carmona / Pat Thomas / Ashley Wales
The second set was devoted to a long improvised jam-thing from Roland Ramanan (trumpet), Robert Jarvis (trombone), Javier Carmona (drums), Pat Thomas (electronics) and Ashley Wales (electronics).
I don’t know how ad-hoc this ensemble was, but it seemed a slightly peculiar mix. The three acoustic musicians tended to stick together, playing off one another, but there seemed to be little dialogue between them and the electronics. I couldn’t quite work out who was doing what, electronics wise, but Thomas in particular kept throwing out these really intense electronic blasts that were just too conspicuous and didn’t really seem to have anything to do with the rest of the improvisation. It seemed that the trombone/trumpet/drums were constantly having to change in accordance to what the electronics were doing; there was no movement the other way (perhaps this was the intended framework, but to me, in the audience, it seemed a bit broken). There was also a tendancy to just throw things in (like the drummer picking up a harmonica at one point; Ramanan randomly fiddling on some pipes; massive out-of-place big-band samples) so it just sounded like a free-for-all without a lot of great compositional thought. Again, maybe that was the intention but, for the point of view of the audience (or, this one member at least) it all only really came together for the last quarter of a hour, and it was a bit unsatisfying, overall… If it was just the acoustic group, or if the electronics were a bit more sympathetic, I would probably have enjoyed it a lot better.