Posts Tagged ‘Only Then’

Panurus Productions – 2nd April 2021

Sometimes, an understanding of process helps in shaping the appreciation of a musical work. Sometimes, it doesn’t. When presented with Only Then by Left Hand Cuts Off The Right, I can’t decide either way. The album contains two longform tracks – the twenty-five minute ‘2 – 6 – 17’ and the thirty-five minute ’23 – 6 -19’. Both were recorded live, and showcase a blend of improvisation and composition. The track titles do, unsurprisingly, mark the dates of the performances, both f which took place at the legendary Café Oto in 2017 and 2019.

On the former piece, a scraping drone hovers somewhere in the distance, relentless, nagging, always in the background but always within the reals of awareness: you simply cannot tune it out. Atop of this, there are crackles, scrapes, flickers, scratches and microcosmic, microtonal glitches, and gently tinkling picked notes casting sparse scales and oriental motifs, with the zither providing a unique, and, to western ears, exotic flavour. Over time, the details dissolve and blur into a metallic scrape that gnaws at the senses as allow, slow, undulation persists long after any trace of melody had dissipated, swallowed by currents of dissonant sound.

Slow-hammered xylophone notes emerge and steer toward the end of the first piece, and then stop: cue a cascade of applause which reminds us that this isn’t a studio work and that this happened. Not just that live performances used to be a thing, but, quite simply, that the audio contained here is not a studio-controlled contrivance, but an event that happened in real-time. Something about that realisation is strangely affecting.

Coughs and splutters and a general clamour of voices preface the fall to silence and the first echoing sounds on side two. Audience behaviour is so telling: the respect (or lack of) given to a artists whose performances are on the quiet aside can make or decimate the enjoyment for may of those present. Here, Left Hand Cuts Off The Right command over half an hour of hush. From clattering drips and clangs, the track builds from sparse sound echoing into emptiness, slow-dropping notes decaying into a soft ambience.

As to the technique and the technical aspects, the press release informs that ‘both sets were created with zither, melodica, synthesizer, bent electronics, field recordings, mbira, tape loops, percussion and effects. Side A comprises of 6 improvised sections each with specific performance, composition and sonic parameters. Side B is centred on 2 pre-recorded compositions which are mixed and performed live and interspersed with improvised sections for set sound sources.’

It’s actually quite difficult to unravel precisely what this means, beyond the fact that often the composing, improvising and performing processes overlap – informing one another as new works are created. And while the live performance of prerecorded pieces interspersed with improvisation and improvisation within predetermined parameters are clearly different disciplines, ultimately both methods combine a certain element of random with planning. Moreover, while delivered as works in the ,ids of an eternal evolution due to the nature of their form, these pieces as performed and as recorded are not works in progress, but works in their own right.

Only Then captures a moment – one I suspect many of us wish we could return to right now.

AA

a1540115934_10