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Beresford Hammond - Each Edge of the Field Rating: 3-5 out of 5 Music that is melancholy and sometimes unsettling, but is undeniably atmospheric and possessed of a dark beauty that is all its own.

Beresford Hammond

“Each Edge of the Field”

(The 52nd 52NDC004)

“Each Edge of the Field” is the third album to feature the partnership of improvising musicians Charlie Beresford (acoustic guitar, piano, voice) and Sonia Hammond (cello).

Based in the Welsh Borders the pair made their recorded début in 2015 with the album “The Science of Snow” which found them bringing a genuine beauty to the art of free improvisation.

For “The Lightning Bell” (2016) they expanded the group to a trio with the addition of pianist Carolyn Hume, one of Beresford’s collaborators in the quartet Fourth Page. The album also included an unexpected but surprisingly successful guest contribution from vocalist Judie Tzuke.

For their latest project “Each Edge of the Field” Beresford and Hammond have gone back to basics with an album that features the core duo and which is entirely instrumental. Beresford has developed an innovative style of vocal improvising that sits somewhere between John Martyn and Robert Wyatt but chooses not to feature his voice here. Beresford’s singing featured on the previous album featuring the Beresford Hammond axis and his improvised vocals have also been an important component of the Fourth Page sound.

I first became aware of Beresford’s music in 2009 with the release of his highly personal solo album “Dark Transport”. He combines solo projects with membership of the improvising group Fourth Page alongside Hume, bassist Peter Marsh and percussionist Paul May. He has also played with the multi-instrumentalist Mark Emmerson (piano, accordion, viola) under the name Five Turnings Duo. Beresford co-ordinates the Radnor Improvisers, a collective of improvising musicians from around the Welsh Borders and also has a parallel career as a visual artist and photographer. Further information on his numerous activities can be found on his website http://www.brightfieldproductions.co.uk or at http://charlieberesford.com

Also a member of the Radnor Improvisers the classically trained Hammond studied at Birmingham School of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is still involved with classical ensembles such as the Brecknock Sinfonia (for whom she is principal cellist) and the Castalia String Quartet. In 2014 she released a live solo recording of compositions by J.S. Bach. However Hammond has also worked extensively in other genres of music during an eclectic freelance career and has collaborated with solo artists such as Barb Jungr and Chloe Goodchild and with the bands Babysnakes and Ennui.

Like its predecessors the album artwork for “Each Edge of the Field” features the striking black and white imagery of the Canadian photographer and film maker Gaena da Sylva from Quebec who collaborates with Beresford under the generic name The 52nd (as in parallel). See http://www.the52nd.com

“Each Edge of the Field” was recorded by Beresford at Cwm Gwilym Schoolhouse and the opening track, “Calling the Corvids” lasts for just forty three seconds. Nevertheless it’s an evocative snippet that sets the tone for the album as a whole with Hammond ringing the school bell above a backdrop of found ornithological sounds, namely the cawing of a group of crows, or more probably rooks.

This is quickly followed by the atmospheric “At the Moment it Broke” with its melancholic cello timbres and rumbling low end piano sonorities. The dialogue between Beresford and Hammond is edgy and dramatic, there’s a sense of charged intensity about their exchanges that hints darkly of an impending catastrophe that never quite arrives.

Instead we get to enjoy the title track, which clocks in at nine minutes and which is the lengthiest piece on the record. This is a piece that feels almost pre-composed and features Beresford on acoustic guitar. His dialogue with Hammond’s cello evolves slowly and organically with both musicians making effective use of space in a way that recalls the partnership of Ralph Towner and cellist David Darling for ECM Records. Fourth Page have described their musical output as “spontaneously composed songs” and there’s something of that quality here on one of the duo’s most accessible and melodic pieces. However “Each Edge of the Field” is still hauntingly atmospheric, full of the dark, melancholic beauty that characterises so much of Beresford’s output.

Beresford sometimes deploys extended techniques on his guitar that Tim Owen, writing for Dalston Sound, likened to the art of piano preparation. I’d surmise that the percussive type sounds to be heard on the disturbing and unsettling “Wire Fence” were achieved in this way. Meanwhile Hammond’s bowing varies between the sombre and the eerie on a piece that at times genuinely does evoke images of the wind whistling through a wire fence in just the kind of isolated rural location that this album was recorded.

The equally atmospheric “Campanulaue” does indeed feature Beresford on prepared piano, the chiming of his sparse but dramatic contributions punctuating the crepescular cadences of Hammond’s cello.

The sombre timbres continue on the equally evocative and atmospheric “Vyallt” which briefly threatens to erupt into a hoe-down thanks to Hammond’s vigorous bowing. But we’re soon back into more familiar territory with an edgy and unsettling dialogue between Beresford’s acoustic guitar and Hammond’s grainy cello. Extended techniques again feature and I’d surmise that at some point Beresford also deploys a bow on his guitar strings, a technique that he has been known to use in the past.

“The Weathering Yard” is a (relatively) more conventional conversation between cello and acoustic guitar. Three albums in Beresford Hammond have developed a distinctive musical chemistry and a sound that embraces folk and classical elements (as here) alongside the usual tropes of freely improvised music. It’s a highly distinctive approach that has won the duo considerable critical acclaim.

“Oracle of Strangeness” is one of the duo’s more unsettling pieces with its percussive effects and prepared piano sounds allied to the harsh scraping of Hammond’s cello. During the course of their improvisations the duo are adept at building and sustaining a mood as they do on this appropriately sinister sounding piece.

The album concludes with a return to avian imagery with “Crow” as Hammond’s cello explores deep dark, grainy sonorities before hovering in an almost impossibly high register above Beresford’s cleanly picked guitar arpeggios.

“Each Edge of the Field” finds Beresford and Hammond building on the success of their previous recordings and refining their art as a duo. It’s melancholy and sometimes unsettling, but is undeniably atmospheric and possessed of a dark beauty that is all its own. In this sense it ties in neatly with Beresford’s other recordings, whether solo, duo or trio or with the group Fourth Page.
Inevitably it can’t have quite the same initial emotional impact as “The Science of Snow” but it represents a very worthy follow up.

This is music inspired by the landscape of the Welsh Borders, an undeniably beautiful but sometimes unforgivingly harsh environment, qualities that the music reflects and something that I can relate to as a denizen of this part of the world. Life in the country isn’t always quite as bucolic as city dwellers might like to imagine.

“Each Edge of the Field” is released on July 1st 2017 and can be purchased via the following websites;

http://www.the52nd.com

http://www.beresfordhammond.com

http://www.charlieberesford.com

Unfortunately the album launch gig scheduled at the The Chapel venue in Abergavenny on 30th June has been cancelled. However the duo are hoping to tour in the Autumn. Check the websites above for updates with regard to this.

Each Edge of the Field

Beresford Hammond

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Each Edge of the Field

Music that is melancholy and sometimes unsettling, but is undeniably atmospheric and possessed of a dark beauty that is all its own.

Beresford Hammond

“Each Edge of the Field”

(The 52nd 52NDC004)

“Each Edge of the Field” is the third album to feature the partnership of improvising musicians Charlie Beresford (acoustic guitar, piano, voice) and Sonia Hammond (cello).

Based in the Welsh Borders the pair made their recorded début in 2015 with the album “The Science of Snow” which found them bringing a genuine beauty to the art of free improvisation.

For “The Lightning Bell” (2016) they expanded the group to a trio with the addition of pianist Carolyn Hume, one of Beresford’s collaborators in the quartet Fourth Page. The album also included an unexpected but surprisingly successful guest contribution from vocalist Judie Tzuke.

For their latest project “Each Edge of the Field” Beresford and Hammond have gone back to basics with an album that features the core duo and which is entirely instrumental. Beresford has developed an innovative style of vocal improvising that sits somewhere between John Martyn and Robert Wyatt but chooses not to feature his voice here. Beresford’s singing featured on the previous album featuring the Beresford Hammond axis and his improvised vocals have also been an important component of the Fourth Page sound.

I first became aware of Beresford’s music in 2009 with the release of his highly personal solo album “Dark Transport”. He combines solo projects with membership of the improvising group Fourth Page alongside Hume, bassist Peter Marsh and percussionist Paul May. He has also played with the multi-instrumentalist Mark Emmerson (piano, accordion, viola) under the name Five Turnings Duo. Beresford co-ordinates the Radnor Improvisers, a collective of improvising musicians from around the Welsh Borders and also has a parallel career as a visual artist and photographer. Further information on his numerous activities can be found on his website http://www.brightfieldproductions.co.uk or at http://charlieberesford.com

Also a member of the Radnor Improvisers the classically trained Hammond studied at Birmingham School of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is still involved with classical ensembles such as the Brecknock Sinfonia (for whom she is principal cellist) and the Castalia String Quartet. In 2014 she released a live solo recording of compositions by J.S. Bach. However Hammond has also worked extensively in other genres of music during an eclectic freelance career and has collaborated with solo artists such as Barb Jungr and Chloe Goodchild and with the bands Babysnakes and Ennui.

Like its predecessors the album artwork for “Each Edge of the Field” features the striking black and white imagery of the Canadian photographer and film maker Gaena da Sylva from Quebec who collaborates with Beresford under the generic name The 52nd (as in parallel). See http://www.the52nd.com

“Each Edge of the Field” was recorded by Beresford at Cwm Gwilym Schoolhouse and the opening track, “Calling the Corvids” lasts for just forty three seconds. Nevertheless it’s an evocative snippet that sets the tone for the album as a whole with Hammond ringing the school bell above a backdrop of found ornithological sounds, namely the cawing of a group of crows, or more probably rooks.

This is quickly followed by the atmospheric “At the Moment it Broke” with its melancholic cello timbres and rumbling low end piano sonorities. The dialogue between Beresford and Hammond is edgy and dramatic, there’s a sense of charged intensity about their exchanges that hints darkly of an impending catastrophe that never quite arrives.

Instead we get to enjoy the title track, which clocks in at nine minutes and which is the lengthiest piece on the record. This is a piece that feels almost pre-composed and features Beresford on acoustic guitar. His dialogue with Hammond’s cello evolves slowly and organically with both musicians making effective use of space in a way that recalls the partnership of Ralph Towner and cellist David Darling for ECM Records. Fourth Page have described their musical output as “spontaneously composed songs” and there’s something of that quality here on one of the duo’s most accessible and melodic pieces. However “Each Edge of the Field” is still hauntingly atmospheric, full of the dark, melancholic beauty that characterises so much of Beresford’s output.

Beresford sometimes deploys extended techniques on his guitar that Tim Owen, writing for Dalston Sound, likened to the art of piano preparation. I’d surmise that the percussive type sounds to be heard on the disturbing and unsettling “Wire Fence” were achieved in this way. Meanwhile Hammond’s bowing varies between the sombre and the eerie on a piece that at times genuinely does evoke images of the wind whistling through a wire fence in just the kind of isolated rural location that this album was recorded.

The equally atmospheric “Campanulaue” does indeed feature Beresford on prepared piano, the chiming of his sparse but dramatic contributions punctuating the crepescular cadences of Hammond’s cello.

The sombre timbres continue on the equally evocative and atmospheric “Vyallt” which briefly threatens to erupt into a hoe-down thanks to Hammond’s vigorous bowing. But we’re soon back into more familiar territory with an edgy and unsettling dialogue between Beresford’s acoustic guitar and Hammond’s grainy cello. Extended techniques again feature and I’d surmise that at some point Beresford also deploys a bow on his guitar strings, a technique that he has been known to use in the past.

“The Weathering Yard” is a (relatively) more conventional conversation between cello and acoustic guitar. Three albums in Beresford Hammond have developed a distinctive musical chemistry and a sound that embraces folk and classical elements (as here) alongside the usual tropes of freely improvised music. It’s a highly distinctive approach that has won the duo considerable critical acclaim.

“Oracle of Strangeness” is one of the duo’s more unsettling pieces with its percussive effects and prepared piano sounds allied to the harsh scraping of Hammond’s cello. During the course of their improvisations the duo are adept at building and sustaining a mood as they do on this appropriately sinister sounding piece.

The album concludes with a return to avian imagery with “Crow” as Hammond’s cello explores deep dark, grainy sonorities before hovering in an almost impossibly high register above Beresford’s cleanly picked guitar arpeggios.

“Each Edge of the Field” finds Beresford and Hammond building on the success of their previous recordings and refining their art as a duo. It’s melancholy and sometimes unsettling, but is undeniably atmospheric and possessed of a dark beauty that is all its own. In this sense it ties in neatly with Beresford’s other recordings, whether solo, duo or trio or with the group Fourth Page.
Inevitably it can’t have quite the same initial emotional impact as “The Science of Snow” but it represents a very worthy follow up.

This is music inspired by the landscape of the Welsh Borders, an undeniably beautiful but sometimes unforgivingly harsh environment, qualities that the music reflects and something that I can relate to as a denizen of this part of the world. Life in the country isn’t always quite as bucolic as city dwellers might like to imagine.

“Each Edge of the Field” is released on July 1st 2017 and can be purchased via the following websites;

http://www.the52nd.com

http://www.beresfordhammond.com

http://www.charlieberesford.com

Unfortunately the album launch gig scheduled at the The Chapel venue in Abergavenny on 30th June has been cancelled. However the duo are hoping to tour in the Autumn. Check the websites above for updates with regard to this.


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