When I think of improvised music I tend to think that it falls into 3 groups. One – The group of players are doing their own thing and are seemingly unaware of the players around them, Two – The players are inhabiting their own world but interact with the other players weaving in and of each others sphere much like The Necks do and, Three – Those that are so attune to each other that you’d swear that this is music that was written by the group and tightly rehearsed. The music of “NOPLACE” easily falls into the third category.
Noplace is an improvised collaboration between Aidan Baker (Nadja / Caudal / B/B/S/), Simon Goff (Molecular, Bee & Flower) and Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Thor & Friends). Having known each other for a number of years and previously contributed to one another’s recordings this trio finally came together as a whole on May 7th 2017 at Redrum Studios in Berlin. In a short, improvised session of just a few hours they set about laying down as much material as possible which was then subsequently edited and re-worked (without overdubs) to form this album.
The album art was done by Christopher Hefner another musical artist they have worked with before. Gizeh Records describe the music as “a hypnotic and deep listen. Kinetic rhythms pulsate throughout whilst the guitar and violin jostle and weave around the metronomic beats, creating a cathartic and all-encompassing experience. The very nature of the instrumental repetitions give it an immediate avant/krautrock feel but the whole record is coated in a wonderful psychedelic atmosphere that’s both melodic, textured and innovative.”
Using a simple sound source of instruments such as Guitar, Drums and Violin the trio create a world of sound. “Noplace I” opens the album with the center being Harris’ tribal jazz-like drumming that is hypnotic and gives Baker’s guitar and Goff’s Violin a base to attach to and allows them to run across weaving lines of guitar and violin in drone like and feedback fashion. The violin and guitar aren’t used in typical fashion and use more in a melodic colorful way.
“Noplace II” takes the music into the more experimental realm with minimal cymbal dominated percussion, spindly guitar work and arcing violin cutting in and out. There is a hypnotic loop feel to the track that also comes across assoundtrack-esque. With the first piece being centered on drums, the change see the guitar and violins become the focal point of the track. There is an ominous edge to the instrumentation with sharp sounds being created by Goff welding to the darker tones conjured by Baker and Harris’ exercise in subtlety. You can image a track like this being extending into a solid hour hour piece.
“Red Robin” starts with Baker’s guitar that has a looping insistent almost art punk/post punk feel to it, with a classic drum section from Harris that could easily sit in either trip hop or post rock circles while Goff surveys the top section of the soundscape with barely reminiscent violin. This track comes across as the most layered. While the guitar and drums remain the same through out (with some subtler variation), other guitar section, effects and layering of instruments appear appear. There is a futuristic appeal to the track that leads it other directions than just the “rock format” that is its foundation.
“Noplace III” comes across as an ambient techno track , but one done without synths. The bass beat shuffled cymbals give the track it’s feel, but the guitar drones, spindly section and violin drones gives it the ambient element. The drones have both light and dark feel with the darker end have a bass feel vaguely reminiscent of an instrument like the didgeridoo. The fact that this is constructed without synths shows the way that the players can use their chosen instruments in a way to create textures that are not always ascribed to their instrument. If you told someone they would be listening to music constructed by Guitar, Violin and Drums, they would be pleasantly surprised by this.
“Tin Chapel” sees spindly Asian style guitar working alongside post rock style jazzy percussion with violin that makes me think of a combination of Egyptian and Jazz music. The drums drive the track and the guitar adds an intensity to the piece which is a swirling one, but the focal point is the violin which is used as the lead instrument. There is a section of stacatto violin playing which is in contrast to the drones built up and the and krautrock motorik percussion which drives the track. There is a balance of the structured and unstructured music in the track which comes across in a way of a power play in which element will win over.
“Northplace” starts with ominous affected fuzz guitar, pounding fluttering drums, long arcing violin drones and distorted shimmering guitars. The foot is definitely entrenched in the avant scene as the elements pound away, cutting in and out, building up and disappearing. The focal point changes early on from the percussion being the focal point to the guitar lines and distorted violin that is either droning or cutting up the sound leading through to darker ambient territory, albeit with conventional instruments.
“Nighplace” brings Dirty Three vibe to the with the brushed drums, southern style violin and minimal guitar lines (with maximal sound). It makes sense that this is the final track as it is more reflective than to those that have preceded it. The drums have a rustic feel while Baker and Goff work in tandem to color the piece with drones that at times are widescreen in their coverage. A section of distorted guitar gives a dirty bass element which gives an extra bottom layer to the track the introduction of this appears just before the intensity of the drone element increases to the point where it threatens to take over the track and for a moment the drums get lost in this sound.
It is quite amazing to think that this was recorded in a short period of time on one day, edited and re-assembled and then some six months later sounding like a fully formed album from an established group. Aiden Baker, Simon Goff and Thor Harris have produced a very enjoyable, rich album that thanks to Gizeh Records we are able to appreciate.