Evan Parker isn’t given to routine hyperbole, but he describes As The Wind as “one of the best records I have ever made”, and it’s easy to see why he might think so. The backing of Toma Gouband and Mark Nauseef inspires such supremely relaxed and nuanced performances from the veteran saxophonist that, no matter how much of his music you’ve heard before, this album is well worth your attention.
Nauseef plays mallet-struck metal. Gouband plays rocks and stones, using a floor tom as a resonating and amplifying playing surface. The idiosyncrasy of this dual percussion setup – the anechoic dryness of Gouband’s lithopones inflecting the brighter resonance of Nauseef’s metallophonics – evidently stimulated a rejuvenation of Parker’s essentially trademarked soprano saxophony, in which serial torrents of circular breathing become as impossible to differentiate as they are instantly identifiable and routinely extraordinary.
In Parker’s electro-acoustic ensembles live-processed orchestrations produce often ravishing but nevertheless challenging complexities. Here there’s more space for the music to breathe. Rarer dynamics and generally slower pacing allow players and listeners alike more space for reflection. Being less process-driven, the music is more intimate and open minded, and less inclined to prolixity; Parker’s saxophony flows less incessantly and more gesturally, in supple coils, twists and spurts.
Some pieces, such as “Seeking The Bubble Reputation”, echo the electronic Trance Map music Parker sometimes makes with Gouband either as sampled sound source or live-processed, but this trio emphasises the ‘organic’ qualities of its music, and the set is sequenced as it was recorded, fully improvised, in 2012, “in the warm, natural acoustics of St Peters, Whitstable”.
Gouband’s soundings are typically linear, grainy rubbings or grindings-out with occasional hard slate or stone contacts pitting the tinkling and bell or brightly resonant metallic sonorities of Nauseef’s percussion. Together they set up elemental background atmospheres complexed by an aggregate of small sounds bound up in the airstream of Parker’s saxophony (“as the wind”), string together discreet sounds with the courtly impressionism of stylised Japanese kabuki drama (“like a wild-goose flies”, which ends with a rhythmically stone-pitted flurry of trilling soprano saxophonics), or pattern pulse-racing flights of rhythm, as Nauseef does on the intro to “make noise enough”.
Parker’s saxophone is naturally the strongest presence, though he balances expressive boldness with acute sensitivity to group dynamics. As he truffles up some liquid gold toward the end of the hitherto understated “ambitious for a motley coat”, or from the pin-sharp essentials of “pipes and whistles in his sound”, the originality of the setting casts his musicality in fresh and invigorating new light.
Toma Gouband lithophones; Mark Nauseef percussion; Evan Parker soprano saxophone.
Evan Parker, Matthew Wright and Toma Gouband – Trance Map at the Vortex, 20 September 2012.
Evan Parker & Seymour Wright – Tie the Stone to the Wheel.
John Coxon, Evan Parker and Eddie Prévost – Cinema.
Buy As the Wind direct from Emanem.