demo Directing Hand : Songs From TheRed House (UK,rec.2004,pub.2005)*°°
This demo CDR with cheap print was already laying around here a whole while, before I noticed that the album was also out on LP now (on Singing Knives). So I needed to check it out again, with new patience. It is already the second limited LP (after ‘What Put The Blood’ on Dancing Wayang) and another extremely limited CD (‘Beast In’ on Time Lag).
From what I hear on my recording, it is a not too perfectly recorded direct live recording (one mike in a room I think it is, but with no hiss, so still acceptable, altough it makes the sound more monotone and less rich than it could have been).
It is a cooperation between the loosely-jazz improvised drummer Alex Neilson on drums and vocals (?) (who drummed before with Richard Youngs, Ashtray Navigations, Taurpis Tula, Scatter, and on Ben Reynolds ‘Motor Ghosts’, besides he had also accompanied Jandek live) in combination with (in this case) soprano screamer Lavinia Blackwall who also plays (?) harp, cello (?) and harmonium. She should be a classically trained singer in Early Music (something which shows itself on the last track, in a disturbed way). She is also a member of the great acidfolk-alike Glasgow based band Pendulums. But this is something completely different.
Knowing Richard Youngs played with Scatter I can understand (I accidentally just recently reviewed their two albums), for he plays somewhat like a jazz drummer, adding especially more tensions, in momentous peaks of playing more and with more accents. Lavinia who is said to be classical trained, and with interests in folk music seems to have tried a more free approach, perhaps for the first time. She exaggerates often, loses a grip, finds no new structures or direction, but becomes an outsider, even a sort of danger to herself and the music she left by doing so. The first track’s musical results which comes forth are not too different when sung by someone who tends to be psychologically hysterical, not knowing where to add structure, tending to look for her limits, in voice, screaming, vibrating, the wider world would say she in serious trouble. It becomes moodier, calmer, but the strange efforts didn’t bring too much in. The second track is played with repeated bowed wrong notes, endless watering hand-fingering harp, with the drums especially in the peak moments, and with improvised vocals going up and down to no-songs, nice ok, but again not leading to not too much new expression fields, -just an end of the backyard freedom-.
On the third track, when playing with a folk traditional, improvising a bit with it, such a basics works for me a bit better (free jazz is a really different field to folk although it is worth trying, at least Scatter did as well). The drums add fine jazzy contra-rhythmic and some fuzzed guitar improvises nice and loosely on the same folk melody, harmonium is added, and where such more layers are added, it becomes also better and more interesting.
The next track is a somewhat folk-psychedelic improvised interpretation of “Golden Hair” (Syd Barrett) with percussion, voice and harmonium and some sort of high buzzing hiss. Also this track is more convincing, like the loosening folk song, although also here is some overdone overdose with its improvised vocals, as if going for the “lift off” just a bit too often, all in all it is convincing enough and concludes well. The improvisation followed after this, more free music again, with rhythmical one note freedom, drums and a voice on mad nursery crime again, even when succeeding to add some moodiness it is a bit too clear that as a duo they are not too ear-and structured experienced improvisers.
On the last song, the classically trained singer suddenly comes to the fore with a medieval song interpretation and rape. It starts rather classically sung, while the drums wave/ or bubbles to the surface, it is clear how she really tries to focus on this new area but then becomes a total outsider in her own training, dangerously close to sounding out of her mind, talent-amnesia mixed with moments with the voice of a slowed down action of a strangled cat, combined with a shaken car crash in return, in voice. The drums become wild too. Something like a didgeridoo echo seems to be added but it is a keyboard. She’s crashing into emotional wildness, then goes into trance but forgetting to establish purity for its conditions. For a classically trained artist who goes perhaps so deliberately wrong, it is despite some interesting idea around it, for me also a bit too clear she’s not used to going so much out of control (-Diamanda Galas for instance is never out of control-), and also, I don’t understand the complete reason for these musical options and so direct directions either, -Lavinia Blackwall sounded good enough without the mindflow.
(PS. Also the nice artwork was done by her).