Winter Gardens

Winter Gardens

Winter Gardens by John Butcher.
Bandcamp Link: Winter Gardens

4 tracks, recorded live in London, UK, and Milwaukee, WI, some time around 2013.

The first track, “Sporangia (High)”, is a workout for soprano saxophone prominently featuring flutter tongueing.

The second track, “Sea Cone”, is an exploration of percussive sounds created by opening and closing the Tenor Sax keys and also manipulating feedback created by changing the resonant space in the sax.

The third track, “Sporangia (Low)” is a more general workout for Tenor Saxophone, utilizing a wide variety of “extended technique”.

The fourth track, “Sea Fret” is for Soprano Sax and starts with Butcher making sounds into the Sax without the mouthpiece attached, sort of as a trumpet player would. Percussive sounds of the keys follow, and towards the end it seems he attaches the saxophone’s mouthpiece and the track finishes with high pitched sounds.

Which all sounds very programmatic when you lay it out, but the thing I like about Butcher’s solo playing is that while he is using “extended technique” in his Saxophone playing, he is still telling a story with his playing.

There is a logic to the language he has created and the solos have a progression and through points, which make listening to his music enjoyable and rewarding. There is tension and release. Drama. Humour. Pathos.

It isn’t simply a display of techniques.

#JohnButcher #WinterGardens #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Dusted Machinery

Dusted Machinery

Dusted Machinery by Toshimaru Nakamura & John Butcher.
Bandcamp Link: Dusted Machinery

TOSHIMARU NAKAMURA – No-input Mixing Desk
JOHN BUTCHER – Saxophones

“No-input Mixing Desk” is a bit of a puzzle to me. The idea, I guess, is that Toshimaru Nakamura has a mixing desk with a mixer, obviously, and some effects units, but there is nothing coming in to the mixing desk other than the feedback and ambient noise from manipulating the output. A sort of feedback loop.

Butcher, as well, has experimented with creating feedback loops using the harmonics of space and a mic’d saxophone.

Indeed, the track “Nobasu” here is one where Butcher manipulates feedback created from a mic’d sax, creating sound without ever actually blowing into the saxophone.

So, this is not exactly what is typically described as “music”, closer to what is regarded as “noise”.

The songs, such as they are, involve manipulating the textures of sound created by their instruments over the course of a piece.

Will you enjoy this?

Do you enjoy sitting in the woods near a road, listening to birds and traffic?

Or perhaps find yourself fascinated by the repetitive sounds from a construction site?

Do you purposely de-tune your radio and enjoy the sound between the channels?

The “music” here is constructed by the artists, but the sounds created and the interactions are a long way from Western Pop music.

If you can loosen your expectations about what is and isn’t music, you may find yourself tapping along.

#JohnButcher #ToshimaruNakamura #DustedMachinery #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Resonant Spaces

Resonant Spaces by John Butcher
Bandcamp Link: Resonant Spaces

This is a recent reissue of an album Butcher recorded in 2006 while on tour in Scotland.

The “Resonant Spaces” of the title are varied, from the interior of an old Military Fuel tank (with a 15 second echo) to a piece recorded at the Standing Stones of Stenness on the Orkney mainland, but all the environments are notable in the pieces, shaping Butcher’s choices and providing shapes for him to interact with.

“Wind Piece” recorded outdoors at the Standing Stones is particularly nice. Birds chirp, the wind blows across the mic, and Butcher’s sax at first is almost indistinguishable from the environmental sounds.

“Close by, a waterfall” is also nice, perhaps recorded in a cave near a waterfall, as other tourists, and the waterfall, babble in the background.

Some of the pieces utilize amplified sax and the variation of feedback produced by manipulating the resonant cavity of both the sax and the environment.

Though, lest you think it is all peaceful sound field and environmental work, the torrent of notes which fills the second half of “Calls from a Rusty Cage” is particularly impressive in its speed and the fact that he doesn’t appear to take a breath for the duration of about 3 1/2 minutes. Circular breathing, I know, but the fierceness of this section, taking into account circular breathing, is notable.

A fine piece of work from Mr Butcher that manages to straddle being both meditative at points and at other times invigorating.

#John Butcher #ResonantSpaces #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack


Tangle by John Butcher, Thomas Lehn, Matthew Shipp.
Bandcamp Link: Tangle

Saxophones/Feedback, Analogue Synthesizer, and Piano, respectively.

After the last set I played at Doors That Open in Silence, someone asked me if I had listened to John Butcher and Thomas Lehn’s work together, as I was mining sort of similar territory with feedback from mic’d saxophone running back into processing with digital effects. While I was familiar with them separately, I hadn’t heard their work together.

So I quickly added their couple albums together to my bandcamp wishlist!

This is the first one I have had a chance to listen to, recorded live at the Cafe Oto in London, in 2014.

It’s a pretty great record, by turns noisy, tender, and abstract. It is quite interesting to hear “analogue sythesizer” used as an actual instrument in a live improvised setting. Matthew Shipp is sort of the straight man here to Butcher and Lehn’s jokers, but he provides a grounding force that keeps things from flying off too far into the stratosphere.

And I can see why my compatriot mentioned Lehn and Butcher’s work to me. Something to aspire to!

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #JohnButcher #ThomasLehn #MatthewShipp #Tangle