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Nightports with Matthew Bourne - Nightports w/Matthew Bourne Rating: 4 out of 5 Bourne's virtuoso playing is at the heart of this recording but the contribution of the Nightports duo shouldn’t be overlooked as they sculpt Bourne’s improvisations into something vital and new.

Nightports with Matthew Bourne

Nightports w/Matthew Bourne

(Leaf Records BAY 108CD)

Any project involving the pianistic maverick Matthew Bourne is likely to be of interest. Bourne has long been part of the jazz, improv and experimental music scene in Leeds and beyond, playing both acoustic and electric keyboards, either as a soloist or as a frequent collaborator with the UK’s leading improv musicians.

His latest collaboration finds him co-operating with the duo Nightports, musician-producers Adam Martin, based in Leeds, and Mark Slater, based in Hull. The duo have previously recorded a series of EPs, often in conjunction with vocalist Emily Lynne, as well as appearing on a number of compilation albums featuring jazz and experimental music.

As this album’s notes declare in a re-iteration of Nightports’ manifesto;
“Nightports is based on a simple but unbreakable role of restriction; only sounds produced by the featured musician can be used. Nothing else. These sounds can be transformed, distorted, translated, processed and reprocessed, stretched, cut, ordered and reordered without limitation. Nightports is all about amplifying the characteristics of the musician – celebrating what’s particular about them, finding sounds that nobody else can make, constructing a complete sonic weave, that however radical the transformations, still bears the watermarks of its origin.”

This all Yorkshire production appears on the Leeds based Leaf record label and was recorded over the course of three sessions at two different locations in the county, the first at Bourne’s home near Keighley, the others at Besbrode Pianos in Leeds.

The album notes say of the recording sessions;
“The recordings coax hitherto unheard sounds from a range of pianos - decrepit dusty uprights holding their own against the attack and precision of a modern concert grand. 
At Besbrode’s, pianos were chosen that had character, a story to tell; beautifully imperfect instruments that behaved in unexpected ways. In the first session, a blue-green aluminium Rippen baby grand from 1959 with a muted, warm sound; a rosewood Clementi pianoforte fronted with deep-red pleated fabric; a 1907 mahogany Bechstein Model E with profound bass; a Broadwood Golden Square piano whose 200th birthday had recently passed; and a Ritmüller grand from 1922 with bright, percussive attacks. For the second session, pianos were selected that brought new sounds and told different tales. Lurking in a corner, an 1874 Collard & Collard upright made of rosewood with silk panels produced (untreated) a snare drum. Contrasting that, a modern jet-black Toyama grand with polyester finish gave an angular, bright and cutting attack. A rosewood Rud. Ibach Sohn from 1910 and an unrestored Steinway Model A from 1898 with a sound weighted by its years – nostalgic, imperfect, encrusted.
Besbrode’s is a toy-box of inspiration but proved to be challenging as a place to record. The process of making the album was like shooting a film: small segments captured piece by piece to be sequenced and layered later on. Each piano sounded, felt and smelt different. Each had its own story; things it could do, things it couldn’t. Each piano enticed Matthew to play in a certain way; each had its own grain to be captured and celebrated”.


The album credits Bourne with “original piano performances” and Martin and Slater with “synths and programming” plus production and mixing. As regards composition all the tracks are credited as being written by Matthew Bourne, Adam Martin & Mark Slater but have their roots in Bourne’s initial piano improvisations.

The nine pieces that comprise the album embrace a variety of musical moods and styles ranging from the ambient and ethereal to the hard driving and percussive, the rhythms sometimes reminiscent of contemporary electronic and dance music. But despite the sonic manipulations of Martin and Slater the source of the music is always recognisable as being pianistic and some of the material is downright beautiful. Despite the electronic elements this remains a very warm and human record.

The first piece, ironically titled “Exit”, features the sound Bourne’s piano enhanced by the subtle electronics of Martin and Slater. The piece is surprisingly rhythmic and forceful, the source sounds of the percussive effects presumably being the body of the piano and the dampening of the strings. Even without the electronic embellishments Bourne has always treated the piano as an “entire instrument” and approached with an unbridled physicality.

“Window”, one of the three pieces recorded at Bourne’s home possesses a chilly beauty, presumably inspired by the view from Bourne’s house overlooking the moors above Keighley. Martin and Slater ensure that their contributions are subtle and unobtrusive, essentially this is a lovely, spacious solo piano performance augmented by gently atmospheric electronica.

Recorded at the same location “White-Shirted” is totally different in feel as Bourne attacks the interior of the piano with gusto as prepared piano sounds combine with electronica to produce a sonic landscape that is simultaneously harsh, percussive and glitchy. The piece passes through several different phases incorporating a variety of rhythms while retaining a relentless percussive attack. One of the lengthiest items on the album it later metamorphoses into a long, atmospheric closing section with doomy, gothic piano chords augmented by ghostly percussive sounds.

“This Trip” lowers the temperature again, an icy, ambient piece centred round a recurring, arpeggiated piano motif and augmented by twinkling, spacey electronica. It’s reminiscent of Eno’s “Another Green World” album and maybe Philip Glass and Michael Nyman too - in any event it’s strangely beautiful.

“Annie” renews the percussive attack with Bourne again focussing his attentions “under the lid”. Eventually more conventional piano sounds emerge as the piece enters a more atmospheric and reflective second phase. The it’s back to percussion and electronica with some of the most radical manipulations we’ve heard thus far.

This being an album recorded in Yorkshire I’d like to think that by calling the sixth track “Over” the trio are making an oblique cricket reference. The music marks a return to the chilly, spacey Eno-esque ambience of “This Trip”. Again it’s evocative and hauntingly lovely.

“Look Me In The Eye” begins as a riff fest of piano generated percussive sounds that both compels and excites. It’s followed by a slower, more atmospheric section featuring droning electronica underpinned by a gentle but steady rhythmic pulse. This track is the closest the album gets to the world of contemporary electronica inhabited by Aphex Twin and the like.

The final piece to be recorded at Bourne’s house is “Fragile Years”, a gentle but dark edged and vaguely unsettling piece whose central motif is embellished by spooky electronica. Melancholy beauty is again the order of the day.

The album concludes with the aptly titled “Leave” which promises to drift off into the ether on a cloud of wispy electronica before being punctuated by a series of increasingly brutal block chords from Bourne. The second half of the piece marks a return to the powerful piano generated percussive sounds featured elsewhere on the recording as the piece eventually builds to a skewed, but curiously anthemic climax, teasing the listener along the way, prior to a slow electronic fade.

Bourne is a musician who consistently takes listeners out of their comfort zone, me included. But I have to say that I found this album curiously compulsive with its mix of moods and skilfully crafted combinations of acoustic and electronic sounds. Bourne’s technical facility is beyond question but he’s a musician who is consistently testing his own limits. His virtuoso playing is at the heart of this recording but the contribution of the Nightports duo shouldn’t be overlooked as they sculpt Bourne’s improvisations into something vital and new.

This is no ordinary ‘solo piano’ album and it won’t be to everybody’s taste but I’m sure that there will be many listeners who will find it as compulsive as I did, including curious rock and electronic music fans. One can imagine these pieces being played on Radio 3’s Late Junction programme and appealing to that audience.

Material from the album was performed on three pianos with live manipulations at Middleton Hall in Hull as part of the City Of Culture programme.  On hearing this recording I wish could have been there.

Nightports w/Matthew Bourne

Nightports with Matthew Bourne

Friday, July 13, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Nightports w/Matthew Bourne

Bourne's virtuoso playing is at the heart of this recording but the contribution of the Nightports duo shouldn’t be overlooked as they sculpt Bourne’s improvisations into something vital and new.

Nightports with Matthew Bourne

Nightports w/Matthew Bourne

(Leaf Records BAY 108CD)

Any project involving the pianistic maverick Matthew Bourne is likely to be of interest. Bourne has long been part of the jazz, improv and experimental music scene in Leeds and beyond, playing both acoustic and electric keyboards, either as a soloist or as a frequent collaborator with the UK’s leading improv musicians.

His latest collaboration finds him co-operating with the duo Nightports, musician-producers Adam Martin, based in Leeds, and Mark Slater, based in Hull. The duo have previously recorded a series of EPs, often in conjunction with vocalist Emily Lynne, as well as appearing on a number of compilation albums featuring jazz and experimental music.

As this album’s notes declare in a re-iteration of Nightports’ manifesto;
“Nightports is based on a simple but unbreakable role of restriction; only sounds produced by the featured musician can be used. Nothing else. These sounds can be transformed, distorted, translated, processed and reprocessed, stretched, cut, ordered and reordered without limitation. Nightports is all about amplifying the characteristics of the musician – celebrating what’s particular about them, finding sounds that nobody else can make, constructing a complete sonic weave, that however radical the transformations, still bears the watermarks of its origin.”

This all Yorkshire production appears on the Leeds based Leaf record label and was recorded over the course of three sessions at two different locations in the county, the first at Bourne’s home near Keighley, the others at Besbrode Pianos in Leeds.

The album notes say of the recording sessions;
“The recordings coax hitherto unheard sounds from a range of pianos - decrepit dusty uprights holding their own against the attack and precision of a modern concert grand. 
At Besbrode’s, pianos were chosen that had character, a story to tell; beautifully imperfect instruments that behaved in unexpected ways. In the first session, a blue-green aluminium Rippen baby grand from 1959 with a muted, warm sound; a rosewood Clementi pianoforte fronted with deep-red pleated fabric; a 1907 mahogany Bechstein Model E with profound bass; a Broadwood Golden Square piano whose 200th birthday had recently passed; and a Ritmüller grand from 1922 with bright, percussive attacks. For the second session, pianos were selected that brought new sounds and told different tales. Lurking in a corner, an 1874 Collard & Collard upright made of rosewood with silk panels produced (untreated) a snare drum. Contrasting that, a modern jet-black Toyama grand with polyester finish gave an angular, bright and cutting attack. A rosewood Rud. Ibach Sohn from 1910 and an unrestored Steinway Model A from 1898 with a sound weighted by its years – nostalgic, imperfect, encrusted.
Besbrode’s is a toy-box of inspiration but proved to be challenging as a place to record. The process of making the album was like shooting a film: small segments captured piece by piece to be sequenced and layered later on. Each piano sounded, felt and smelt different. Each had its own story; things it could do, things it couldn’t. Each piano enticed Matthew to play in a certain way; each had its own grain to be captured and celebrated”.


The album credits Bourne with “original piano performances” and Martin and Slater with “synths and programming” plus production and mixing. As regards composition all the tracks are credited as being written by Matthew Bourne, Adam Martin & Mark Slater but have their roots in Bourne’s initial piano improvisations.

The nine pieces that comprise the album embrace a variety of musical moods and styles ranging from the ambient and ethereal to the hard driving and percussive, the rhythms sometimes reminiscent of contemporary electronic and dance music. But despite the sonic manipulations of Martin and Slater the source of the music is always recognisable as being pianistic and some of the material is downright beautiful. Despite the electronic elements this remains a very warm and human record.

The first piece, ironically titled “Exit”, features the sound Bourne’s piano enhanced by the subtle electronics of Martin and Slater. The piece is surprisingly rhythmic and forceful, the source sounds of the percussive effects presumably being the body of the piano and the dampening of the strings. Even without the electronic embellishments Bourne has always treated the piano as an “entire instrument” and approached with an unbridled physicality.

“Window”, one of the three pieces recorded at Bourne’s home possesses a chilly beauty, presumably inspired by the view from Bourne’s house overlooking the moors above Keighley. Martin and Slater ensure that their contributions are subtle and unobtrusive, essentially this is a lovely, spacious solo piano performance augmented by gently atmospheric electronica.

Recorded at the same location “White-Shirted” is totally different in feel as Bourne attacks the interior of the piano with gusto as prepared piano sounds combine with electronica to produce a sonic landscape that is simultaneously harsh, percussive and glitchy. The piece passes through several different phases incorporating a variety of rhythms while retaining a relentless percussive attack. One of the lengthiest items on the album it later metamorphoses into a long, atmospheric closing section with doomy, gothic piano chords augmented by ghostly percussive sounds.

“This Trip” lowers the temperature again, an icy, ambient piece centred round a recurring, arpeggiated piano motif and augmented by twinkling, spacey electronica. It’s reminiscent of Eno’s “Another Green World” album and maybe Philip Glass and Michael Nyman too - in any event it’s strangely beautiful.

“Annie” renews the percussive attack with Bourne again focussing his attentions “under the lid”. Eventually more conventional piano sounds emerge as the piece enters a more atmospheric and reflective second phase. The it’s back to percussion and electronica with some of the most radical manipulations we’ve heard thus far.

This being an album recorded in Yorkshire I’d like to think that by calling the sixth track “Over” the trio are making an oblique cricket reference. The music marks a return to the chilly, spacey Eno-esque ambience of “This Trip”. Again it’s evocative and hauntingly lovely.

“Look Me In The Eye” begins as a riff fest of piano generated percussive sounds that both compels and excites. It’s followed by a slower, more atmospheric section featuring droning electronica underpinned by a gentle but steady rhythmic pulse. This track is the closest the album gets to the world of contemporary electronica inhabited by Aphex Twin and the like.

The final piece to be recorded at Bourne’s house is “Fragile Years”, a gentle but dark edged and vaguely unsettling piece whose central motif is embellished by spooky electronica. Melancholy beauty is again the order of the day.

The album concludes with the aptly titled “Leave” which promises to drift off into the ether on a cloud of wispy electronica before being punctuated by a series of increasingly brutal block chords from Bourne. The second half of the piece marks a return to the powerful piano generated percussive sounds featured elsewhere on the recording as the piece eventually builds to a skewed, but curiously anthemic climax, teasing the listener along the way, prior to a slow electronic fade.

Bourne is a musician who consistently takes listeners out of their comfort zone, me included. But I have to say that I found this album curiously compulsive with its mix of moods and skilfully crafted combinations of acoustic and electronic sounds. Bourne’s technical facility is beyond question but he’s a musician who is consistently testing his own limits. His virtuoso playing is at the heart of this recording but the contribution of the Nightports duo shouldn’t be overlooked as they sculpt Bourne’s improvisations into something vital and new.

This is no ordinary ‘solo piano’ album and it won’t be to everybody’s taste but I’m sure that there will be many listeners who will find it as compulsive as I did, including curious rock and electronic music fans. One can imagine these pieces being played on Radio 3’s Late Junction programme and appealing to that audience.

Material from the album was performed on three pianos with live manipulations at Middleton Hall in Hull as part of the City Of Culture programme.  On hearing this recording I wish could have been there.


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