Outward Sound Ensemble - Thunder in a Clear Sky (CD Discus)

Started by trombonist Herb Bayley and prepared-guitar-player Chris Meloche in 2002, the OSE moniker embodied the spirit of their new venture; a means of taking things further, with the assistance of fellow travellers along the way. 

On the occasion of July 3rd 2005 Chris Meloche, Martin Archer (software), Mick Beck (bassoon), Charlie Collins (vibraphone), and Nick Robinson (guitar and loops) performed 3 half-hour improvisations at the Over The Top in Sheffield. Later, at Archer's behest, Bayley played along to the tapes of the show. What you have here are the resulting recordings - a trans-Atlantic collaboration.  

Remember the days when you'd send cassettes of your recordings to a mate in another country, then he'd over-dub his own part, and tapes would go back and forth? That spirit of exploration with the 'other' is evoked here. Distance and time lines are broken, location becomes  an intangible. Acoustically, it is very much a recording made within a room. It has that quietly pleasing sound of being enclosed. Things occurring within a room, but which room? The one Bayley was in or the one the others were in?

 It also calls into question the idea of a 'live album.' Of course there is no such thing. A recording is by its very nature not live. Play it again and it is identical to the first time (despite your ever changing perception.) But the process by which this album was made accentuates the irony of nothing being less live than a live album. And it's all the better for it as it plays with the concept of what is 'live' (albeit without intentionally.) 

These surprising, drifting, electro/acoustic improvisational soundscapes have a subtle surrealism to them. Dark, moving and yet underlined by a glide. There's just enough grit to form a pearl. At times the metallic glide was reminiscent of Coil's How to Destroy Angels, at other times it hinted at the playfulness of early NWW. Perhaps that's misleading but it shares those worlds. You can even hear thunder and rain in the background. All this surrealism (no, realism!), appropriate then that one of the titles is 'Breton's Aquarium.' 

Aurally an unusual release for the Discus label, but very much a kindred spirit. HM

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