Axel Dörner and Mark Sanders – Stonecipher + Ikue Mori and Steve Noble – Prediction and Warning

StonecipherPredictionWarningImprovised percussion duets are usually highly rhythmic, regardless the degree of gestural abstraction. These two sessions, which each match percussion with electronics, are exceptions to the rule.

Although Ikue Mori and Steve Noble’s Prediction and Warning (Fataka) does occasionally lurch into dynamic rhythmic interplay, the duo spend more time traversing abstract soundscapes, and Axel Dörner and Mark Sanders’ Stonecipher (also Fataka) is yet more rarefied.

The inscrutable Stonecipher matches Mark Sanders (drums, percussion) with Axel Dörner’s trumpet and electronics. Sessions at London City University Music Studios in 2011 yielded two long electroacoustic pieces—”Stonecipher I” (33:17) and “Stonecipher II” (14:09)—which don’t yield their secrets easily, although with attentive listening, sounds’ sources are always evident.

There are occasional forthright concessions to rhythm playing here—there’s a drum roll about 7 minutes in to “Stonecipher I”, and 18 minutes later there’s a nebulous synth-like tone that resolves into a melody, while “Stonecipher II” has some bold trumpet licks—but it’s generally possible for the listener to forget that acoustic instruments are involved at all.

Sanders focuses on tam-tam, high hats, and unorthodox strategies to accompany Dörner’s chary soundcloud electronics and contiguous, close-mic’d breath sounds with precise, minimalist gestures. The result is a rich, subtly detailed patina of absorbing, grainy sound stippled with sometimes unexpectedly dramatic percussives.

Prediction and Warning, recorded in a London studio in 2011, documents the ongoing occasional partnership of Ikue Mori and Steve Noble, who first played together in 2010 at London’s Cafe Oto.

Mori plays laptop electronics, but her sound reflects her early experience as a drummer in 80s No Wave trio DNA, and her subsequent mastery of drum machines. Her sound is typically comprised of grainy, flocking whorls of clipped glitch-motes, occasionally clearing to expose sustained synth tones or mechanic rhythm patterns.

Noble sometimes plays strict, martial patterns: witness the tattoo that animates “Montparnasse Derailment”, or his pulse setting on “Black Death (Steve’s March)”; but mostly he responds to Mori with recombinant textural abstractions. Favoured strategies involve assorted gongs and cymbals, struck clean, bowed or scraped, pressed into drum heads or otherwise muted; friction tones rubbed from drumheads with a rubber mallet.

The Mori/Nonble duo’s interactions are as bold as they are complex and incessant; gestures in sound, in which physical impulses are expressed spontaneously, honed only by the seasoned improvisors’ spontaneity and instinctive rapport; their sound is capricious and compulsive.

By contrast, the work of the Stoneciphers, Dörner and Sanders, comes only gradually into focus. These are etchings compared to Mori & Noble’s action paintings, the acid of their gestures dissolving silences within the incised lines of spontaneous compositions. This is mordant music, for listeners with patience and an ear for the beauty in the close grain of structured sound.

Related Posts
John Butcher and Mark Sanders – Daylight
Stephen O’Malley and Steve Noble – St Francis Duo
Also on Fataka:
John Edwards and Okkyung Lee – White Cable, Black Wires + Pat Thomas – Al-Khwarizmi Variations
John Butcher and Matthew Shipp – At Oto + John Coxon, Evan Parker & Eddie Prévost – Cinema

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