Humcrush/ Leverton Fox, The Vortex,London, 16/04/2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Reviewed by: Tim Owen
Tim Owen enjoys the music of Norwegian electro improvising duo Humcrush with support coming from the UK's own Leverton Fox.
Humcrush | Leverton Fox
16 April 2010
It’s been unusually difficult to find a gig to go to in NE London lately, with many concerts being cancelled due to the recent resurrection of Eyjafjallajokull. Fortunately for me, however, Humcrush were nearly at the end of a short tour. I assume the Norwegian duo would then have been stranded here just as they were thinking of home, along with so many visiting musicians who found themselves having to scrabble for gigs in order to pay unexpected travel expenses. Their support, Leverton Fox, were on home turf.
Leverton Fox are Alex Bonney (trumpet, electronics), Tim Giles (drums, electronics), and Matt Groom (electronics). Bonney and Giles, at least, might be familiar to London audiences, as Bonney also plays in World Sanguine Report, while Giles keeps busy in Golden Age of Steam and co-leading Fraud. Apparently Groom often adds a strong visual element to the groups’ sets with projected film, and it’s perhaps a shame that this was missing tonight. All three are part of the London-based Loop collective.
Emphasising the electro in electro-acoustic, Leverton Fox get their particular balance of electronics and live instrumentation just about spot on. Giles’ restless drumming is pivotal, not only for asserting impetus and rhythmic groove but also for signalling shifts of direction. Bonney’s pensive trumpet is extensively used as sound generator for live sampling and processing, but often enough he plays it straight, giving the band’s sound much of its character and melodic shape. Groom’s electronics are a unifying force, and contribute much to a solidly boomy low end that would no doubt make Leverton Fox appealing to an indie noise/dance audience as much as the Vortex constituency, as might their general air of slightly dishevelled abstraction.
The trio are all rough edges and collapsing momentum. The only obvious point of comparison for me is Kieran ‘Four Tet’ Hebden’s work with veteran drummer Steve Reid in the Exchange Sessions, or perhaps Hebden’s work with ramshackle folk psychedelicists Sunburned. Their music is always interesting in the now. Too many passages are diffuse, with the group seeming rather directionless, though any drift into longueurs is eventually abbreviated by new rhythmic impulses imposed by Giles. When things falter altogether Giles subjects his percussion to delay effects, sometimes crudely but generally with real finesse.
Humcrush are Ståle Storløkken (keyboards) and Thomas Strønen (drums). Both subject their instruments to live sampling and processing, which is perhaps the commonality that led to their pairing with Leverton Fox, but whereas Leverton Fox always seem on the verge of disarray Humcrush are intensely focused and their music precise and purposeful. Storløkken is perhaps best known for his role in Supersilent, but is also doing excellent work these days with another quite different project project, elephant9 (keep an eye out for my review of their new CD, soon to be posted here), while Strønen will be well known to many as saxophonist Iain Ballamy’s partner in Food (who also have a new CD out, and are due to play Cheltenham Jazz Festival).
It’s an odd turn of events, but since Supersilent became a trio with the departure of Arve Henriksen just before the recording of their seventh album, 9, last year, Humcrush sound more like Supersilent than Supersilent themselves now do. Certainly here, for those familiar with Supersilent, and in marked contrast to his work in the Hammond-driven elephant9, Storløkken’s sound will be familiarly edgy and ethereal. This is primarily down to his use of a Korg synthesizer as primary sound source. Melodic ideas that are worked out on the Korg are instantly sampled and processed live on Storløkken’s main keyboards. As his tag partner (their music is a continuous exchange of ideas) Strønen’s style is a distinctive clutter of nimbly minimalist, often quasi-oriental percussion sounds that he also samples and processes live. As they navigated a course through the one long-form improvisation that constituted their entire set, the close understanding between the duo was often astonishing.
Strønen initially set the mood by improvising around subtle variations in approach. Progress was stilted during some early passages, partly as the result of Strønen incessantly re-situating his free-standing mic to focus on a particular part of his kit. He did this so often that this fiddliness became part of his rhythm. On the plus side his exactitude told in the clarity and precision of the sound mix achieved. Storløkken’s keyboards, meanwhile, fleshed out Strønen’s restlessness rhythmic patterns with fittingly edgy textures. As the set drew on the emphasis gradually shifted to Storløkken and his playing became more dynamic and percussive. The eventual close came in a briefly explosive exchange with a cloud-break of tension.
Tim’s Star Ratings;
Leverton Fox 3 Stars
Humcrush 3.5 Stars
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