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Leverton Fox

In The Flicker

by Ian Mann

October 24, 2022


For those with open ears “In The Flicker” offers an immersive and rewarding listening experience. It’s an album that the trio can be justifiably proud of.

Leverton Fox

“In The Flicker”

(Not Applicable NOT062)

Alex Bonney –pocket trumpet, electronics, Tim Giles – drums, electronics, Isambard Khroustaliov – electronics

Leverton Fox is the long running London based electro-improvising trio featuring trumpeter Alex Bonney, drummer Tim Giles and electronic musician and sound artist Isambard Khroustaliov (aka Sam Britton).

The first edition of the group featured Bonney, Giles and electronics specialist Matt Groom and this line up recorded the trio’s début album “Country Dances”,  released on the Gravid Hands label in 2009.

Thus constituted the trio toured as part of a double bill with the Norwegian duo Humcrush (Stale Storlokken, keyboards, Thomas Stronen, drums) in 2010. Former Jazzmann contributor Tim Owen reviewed the joint show at London’s Vortex here;

Following the Humcrush tour Groom left the trio and was replaced by Khroustaliov. The band then began their long association with the Not Applicable artistic collective and released their second album “The Human Arm” for the label in 2012. A number of other recordings followed namely “Smart Casual” (2013), “Kanga” (2016), “Velcro Bird” (2016),  “Foreign Object Worship – Arhus Rites” (2018), “I Am Zebra” (2019) and “Magascopz” (also 2019).

Khroustaliov has also issued a series of solo recordings on Not Applicable as well as a number of collaborations with other musicians, among them percussionist Maurizio Ravalico, bass clarinettist Lothar Ohlmeier and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner. He has also been a member of the electronic duo Icarus alongside fellow sound artist Ollie Bown.

Bonney and Giles are more deeply rooted in the jazz scene and between them have appeared on the Jazzmann web pages on numerous occasions and in a wide variety of musical contexts, from the comparatively straight ahead to the seriously experimental. In addition to his work as a musician Bonney has also featured regularly in his role as a respected recording engineer and producer.

As Leverton Fox the members of the trio have continued to hone their collective electro-acoustic sound both in the studio and on the road. In addition to Humcrush they have also toured with Polar Bear, Sons of Kemet, Blurt, and Sly and The Family Drone.

Taking its title from a line in the Joseph Conrad novella “Heart of Darkness” “In The Flicker” represents Leverton Fox’s ‘lockdown album’. It was recorded outdoors in a Sussex woodland on 17th September 2020 and includes the sounds of the natural world alongside the sounds generated by the band members themselves.

The trio also drew inspiration from Karlheinz Stockhausen and his 1971 work “Sternklang” (translation “Star Sound”), a piece for five musician groups designed to be performed outside by night. It has been performed on numerous occasions in a number of outdoor locations in a variety of countries and is frequently referred to as ‘park music’.

Leverton Fox describe their own album as being;
“a time and site specific conversation between the musicians, interspersed and influenced by the setting and the surrounding sounds of nature”.

Khroustaliov explains the inspirations behind the project thus;
“Holed up in isolation during the pandemic and finding ourselves cherishing the unfolding spring of 2020 in whatever natural spaces we were allowed to visit across London, whilst also revelling in the respite from the constant din of aircraft and traffic we began to hatch a plan, a celebration in a way, to take Leverton Fox out of the studio and the club and into the open air. This album is the documentation of that impulse”.

He continues;
“It was the first time we had played together in nine months and the recording captures a moment of cathartic reprieve, an act of ‘music-ing’ that definitely made the most out of an otherwise traumatic hiatus that was felt the world over. Leverton Fox always had improvisation at its core,  but the act of of making this recording was the first time we’d really engaged with the idea that what we do is also in many cases site specific. This record feels like the most brazen acknowledgement of something that is generally normalised under the title ‘ Live at’ etc. Here context is centre stage”.

“In The Flicker” features the sound of ‘conventional’ acoustic and electric instruments such as trumpet, analogue synths, drum machines and percussion alongside found objects and sounds sourced directly from the environment, including the use of trees as percussive objects.

Suggested influences include the Grateful Dead, early Pink Floyd, Jon Hassell, Faust, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Oren Ambarchi, 23 Skidoo, Nurse With Wound, Cabaret Voltaire and the film director Lars von Trier, and particularly his films “Antichrist” (2009) “Melancholia” (2011).

The album booklet includes a number of other Conrad quotes, but one suspects that the titles of the seven pieces that make up the recording come from the band members themselves. These reflect the circumstances in which the album was recorded as evidenced by the opening “Crackle Bracken” which emerges from ambient, wind like sounds, the breeze flowing through the titular bracken perhaps. Gradually some sort of rhythmic pulse emerges alongside a melange of other sounds, the exact sources of which remain largely indeterminate, a mix of the electronic, the acoustic and the found. Some are almost animal like and there’s the feeling of being lost in the forest at night. It’s unsettling but at the same time is also relaxing, and also innately musical, despite the absence of any ‘conventional’  instrumental playing.

The ambient mood continues as the opener segues into the eight minute “Amethyst Deceiver”, which also includes ethereal synth sounds and the spacey, melancholic ring of Bonney’s trumpet. This time the feeling is more one of being lost in deep space as eerie electronic sounds combine with those of birdsong and disembodied sampled human voices. Giles may be credited with drums but there’s little in the way of conventional rhythm, instead there’s an agreeable sense of weightlessness that reminds this old prog listener of early Tangerine Dream.

Each track segues into the next and we now hear “Bovine Interlude”, which features cowbell like noises in addition to mallet rumbles as subtly mutated, but still recognisable, drum sounds find their way into the mix. There are also readily identifiable trumpet sounds within an overall ambience that also includes the sounds of synths, bird song and, of course, the lowing of cattle.

“Cryptozoology” introduces a darker, heavier sound more solidly and obviously rooted in electronica. The music pulses and swirls as the trio set the controls for the heart of the cosmos. It’s a piece that more closely resembles Leverton Fox’s club performances, a shifting, constantly evolving sonic maelstrom. This segues into the similarly inclined “Lidar Hailing UFO’s” which combines glitchy, staccato electronic beats with the clatter of percussion.

Following these voyages to the stars, perhaps inspired by the night skies of Sussex, the trio briefly return to earth with the lengthy “Tagarp Time Travel”, which re-introduces the sound of birdsong. Nevertheless there’s still a sense of reaching for the heavens courtesy of Bonney’s plaintive, pure toned trumpet, which briefly seems to allude to Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra”, and thus to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001, A Space Odyssey”.  As the piece progresses the music becomes more spacey and abstract and more obviously ‘electronic’, eventually seguing into the electronic snap, crackle and pop of the closing “Brackle Cracken”, this eventually subsiding as the album plays out with the same ambient, wind like sounds that first introduced it.

Leverton Fox’s blend of improvisation and electronica won’t be for everybody but for those with open ears “In The Flicker” offers an immersive and rewarding listening experience.

In his review of the album for London Jazz News Tony Dudley-Evans suggested that the album offers the maximum enjoyment when it is listened to as a single entity, and given the skilful way in which one track subtly merges into another he is unquestionably right. In essence “In The Flicker” represents a unified piece of work in which the listener can readily lose themselves.

The music celebrates the rural and bucolic ambience of the Sussex location but also draws inspiration from the wider universe. It’s generally less abrasive than some of the trio’s earlier work and overall “In The Flicker” has enjoyed a very favourable critical reception. It’s an album that the trio can be justifiably proud of.


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