Toma Gouband has a selection of chunky stone slates laid across the surface of a horizontal bass drum and an upturned cymbal, and he’s lightly tapping them with smaller, ovoid stones to produce dry, sharp sounds – like water dripping in a cavernous stone cistern – in time with the deeper, enveloping beat he’s sounding with the bass drum pedal. Matthew wright is live sampling these sounds and feeding them into a mix – heard in sometimes disconcerting surround sound – of his own electronics and occasional arthouse turntablism. He’s also channelling Evan Parker’s saxophone, sending those trademark flurries of soprano skirling around the room in overlapping flurries.
The soundfield never gets too cluttered, no matter how busy. It sometimes thins until the audience’s sole focus is the soft pad of a saxophone key click or the desiccated detonation of stone on stone.
Whether producing a contrabass loop to knit together processed and acoustic sounds, allowing the ghost-traces of a fragmenting female vocal to highlight an otherwise implicit melody, or selecting ‘breaks’ from a shattered LP of Egyptian orchestral music, Wright was constantly multitasking, both live-sampling and managing his own sound design, adding depth and richness to the repurposed sound of Gouband’s lithophones and Evan Parker’s saxophones.
Parker’s soprano sounded more than usually warm and lyrical in this context, turning from dense, breathless eddies of cold fluttering to warm burbling as Wright favoured the saxophone’s highest pitches.
Parker switched to tenor for a fuller sound at the start of the second set but dug deep into abstraction, with Wright freestyling scratches with a selection of shattered vinyl to accompany an increasingly agitated sequence of saxophonic pops and plosives. With Gouband bowing a long plastic tube against a cymbal to produce a sharp-edged keening In accompaniment, this was an unsettling, agitated but tightly controlled sequence of playing. Its eventual resolution was a balm of melodic tenor flutter doubled by processing, set against the soft rustling of leaves – the remnants of the foliage Gouband had produced to waft, rustle and snap during Wright’s extended soft-noise coda to the first set.
Although he was effectively the guest of Parker and Wright’s established duo, Gouband’s contributions set the tone for the evening. The way Wright repurposed the percussionist’s playing was often inspired, with Gouband feeding him a rich and vivid array of source sounds, playeing his elemental instruments with true musicality.
With the circular rubbing of one smooth stone against that of another, Gouband could produce either a layered, softly granitic grind, or something closer to the tinkle of a wind chime. The scales of a pine cone produced a sweeter, more brittle tonality, while the amplified contact click of two stones touched together reproduced the cracking dry ‘snap’ of an electrical dis/connect.
At one point, Gouband even used drumsticks to play rim shots and cymbal scrapes as well as the freighted bass drum itself. He recorded some such sounds specifically for Parker and Wright to use in the final mix of their Trance Map album (released on psi in 2010), but this concert was their first performance as a trio. It presented a rare opportunity London audiences to see Gouband perform live, on a rare visit from his home in Nantes. Apparently there are at present no plans to record the trio, so I hope this concert wasn’t a one-off.