Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

April 18, 2023


Shiver and Bourne skilfully mould and sculpt their sound to create music that can be simultaneously mysterious, beautiful and frightening.

Shiver Meets Matthew Bourne

“Volume 1”

(Discus Records DISCUS 149CD)

Andy Champion – electric bass, Joost Hendrickx – drums, Chris Sharkey – electric guitar, live processing, production
with Matthew Bourne – piano, Linn-Advanced Memorymoog

Shiver is an electro-improvising trio based in North East England that has been active since 2013 and which released four eponymous EPs during its first seven years of existence - #1” (2013), “#2” (2014),  “#3” (2015) and “#4” (2020).

The last named of these features a single forty minute track, “I Need You To Focus”, edited together from a series of group improvisations, with the band making extensive use of live looping and other electronic techniques.

In 2021 they released their first official full length album for Wesley Stephenson’s New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings imprint. “Night School”  was comprised another long form piece, the fifty three minute title track, initially written by Sharkey and shaped by the band as they improvise freely around the framework of the composition with real time processing altering the sounds of guitar, bass and drums to create electronic soundscapes that alternate between the calming and the unsettling. My review of “Night School” can be found here.

I also recall enjoying a performance by the Shiver trio at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival in which they successfully combined elements of jazz, rock and electronica to compelling effect, making highly effective use of looping and layering techniques. My review of that show can be found as part of my Festival coverage here;

This latest release, which appears on saxophonist Martin Archer’s prolific Discus label finds the members of the Shiver trio collaborating with musical kindred spirit Matthew Bourne, a musician regularly described as a “piano maverick”. 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.

On a personal note I recall seeing Bourne give a remarkable solo piano performance at London’s Vortex Jazz Club way back in 2006 when he was part of a triple bill at the Dalston Summer Stew series curated by Led Bib, who had opened the show in noisily boisterous fashion. Bourne’s intense solo set was then followed by a  second collective sonic attack from Nottingham noiseniks Pinski Zoo.

More recently I favourably reviewed Bourne’s recorded collaboration with the duo Nightports, musician-producers Adam Martin, based in Leeds, and Mark Slater, based in Hull.

Bourne also appears on “Skeleton Blush”, the 2020 album from the sextet World Sanguine Report, led by the extraordinary vocalist and guitarist Andrew Plummer. Review here;

Bourne has also been part of the band Tipping Point, led by saxophonist James Mainwaring, whose 2015 début album “The Earthworm’s Eye View” is reviewed here;

Bourne is also a favourite of former Jazzmann contributor Tim Owen, who has reviewed a number of the pianist’s live performances, with a variety of different collaborators, for this site.

This latest collaboration between Bourne and Shiver took place in 2021 at the pianist’s home. The scenario behind this encounter is perhaps best explained via the artists’ album liner notes;

“On July 16 2021, Shiver (guitarist Chris Sharkey, bassist Andy Champion and drummer Joost Hendrickx) met up with Pianist Matthew Bourne at his house in Airedale, Yorkshire.
Hungry to make music following various lockdowns, cancellations and disappointments, the quartet embarked on a ferocious two-day journey of exploratory music-making. The weather was good, the connection was immediate. There was much laughing, tea-drinking and storytelling. In the evening, the stove was lit and we listened to music: Stanley Clarke, Paul Simon, Sarah Vaughan, Scott Walker, Eugene McDaniels. 
The music from this two day session will be released as 2 volumes. Volume 1 is the first take we played on Day 1, in its entirety. Matthew shifts from Piano to MemoryMoog throughout. Each member of the band spends time in the foreground and background without ever dominating. The group is what’s important here, everyone improvising without explicitly soloing. Ideas come, are explored, then fade before new ideas emerge with confidence and patience.
This music is a good memory from a difficult time and it’s our pleasure to bring it to you now”.

Volume 1 of this collaboration consists of the single forty two minute track “Functional”, which begins quietly and thoughtfully, with ambient soundscaping and the atmospheric rustle and rumble of percussion. It’s vaguely unsettling, the mood suggesting a pent up tension waiting to be released. Bourne’s piano drops glacial shards into Sharkey’s doomy guitar soundscapes, whilst electronically treated drum beats bubble and fizzle beneath the surface, like depth charges.

Gradually the piece gathers momentum, the rhythms becoming more insistent, the soundscapes more abrasive and threatening. Bourne’s piano alternates between jagged high register interjections and bellicose low end rumblings as the piece continues to unfold organically. At one juncture he takes a solo that is relatively ‘conventional’, in his terms at least, as Hendrickx’s drums softly chatter and clatter around him.

Contrast is everything and this is followed by a more clangorous and dynamic section distinguished by some astonishing sounds, presumably generated by a combination of Sharkey’s guitar FX and Bourne’s MemoryMoog. Hendrickx continues to be a busy presence at the drums but Champion’s role is less easy define, there are few conventional ‘bass lines’, but his electric bass is also subject to processing and he is a more substantial presence than might at first be apparent.

A passage of unaccompanied piano cools things down again before the mood darkens once more as the members of Shiver return, with the sounds of electronically processed drums and eerily keening guitar taking centre stage before Bourne inserts jagged shards of glacial, Keith Tippett like piano.

A rhythmic pulse then emerges, around which swirl the sounds of electronically treated guitar and bass, with Bourne continuing to move between synth and piano. Subsequently, the drums come to the fore, supported by squelchy synth bass sounds, among other musical components.

Bourne then continues to experiment more widely on the MemoryMoog, producing some remarkable sounds ranging from organ like drones to futuristic sci-fi soundscapes. In the right hands the synthesiser can still be a powerful, distinctive and significant instrument.

The next section, with Bourne restored to the piano, is a bubbling, swirling vortex of sound, like Steve Reich on speed, that eventually collapses in on itself. We are left lost in space as the drums drop out leaving the other instruments to pulse and crackle in the emptiness before Hendrickx returns for the loosely structured closing section. When the quartet finally stop playing a voice is heard to remark “Functional”, thus giving this shifting,  freely improvised magnum opus its title.

Like its predecessor “Night School” this is an album that makes for immersive listening and again it’s a work that needs to be listened to in its entirety as Shiver and Bourne skilfully mould and sculpt their sound to create music that can be simultaneously mysterious,  beautiful and frightening.

“Volume 2” will be awaited with much interest.

Meanwhile “Volume 1” is available here;

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