Improvisation gets its groove buried deeply for this collaboration between three significant experimentalist players. Drummer and percussionist Charles Hayward forged his early reputation with the prescient art-rockers This Heat in the late 1970s; since that band's fragmentation he has continued to contribute to a remarkable range of projects, including Massacre, Clear Frame and Camberwell Now. Bassist Nick Doyne-Ditmas is chiefly known as a member of the long-running punk-funk-jazz combo Pinski Zoo, but his main act nowadays is the Crackle duo. Singer Viv Corringham has long been established on the free improvisational scene, in terms of both gigs and art gallery installations.
When this particular threesome converges, the result is a music that only exists as a very particular collision. The roots of their soundscapes are inextricably entwined with the German avant-groove combo Can, producer Adrian Sherwood's output and The Slits, in their dubbier incarnation. Distant church bells become part of the rhythmic pulse on the opening Knight, Rook, Bishop, as Hayward delivers the first of his locked grooves: he's very much the descendant of Can's Jaki Liebezeit. Doyne-Ditmas tangles spider-fingers to form a limber flow, and Corringham is the most untethered member, adopting the space warble approach to free-form cosmic flotation favoured by Gong's Gilli Smyth.
This album possesses a live recording feel, as if everything was laid down in a natural reverb space during a single session. In actuality, it was recorded over four days. There's a slightly dated late-1970s, or maybe early-1980s character to the proceedings, but this doesn't particularly impair the experience. A lightness of rhythmic touch is the main character of these improvised pieces.
The second track, Lessness, is the longest on the disc, sprawling along for 13 minutes with Corringham sounding as though she's being exorcised, layering split-personality tongues. For Chair Farm, she's chattering in an insectoid fashion. By this mid-point, the rhythmic density takes a break, as spaciousness pervades. The hovering continues during the ceremonially inclined title-track, but there's a return to steadily unsteady beats by the time the aptly-titled Slowdown/Speed-up/Slowdown unwinds. As Doyne-Ditmas groans with a bowed intensity, this piece displays an incredible amount of variety.
By the end of the album, Corringham's vocals have become too steadfastly single-toned, and the tracks now probably hold more power if they're shuffled as part of an esoteric playlist. The closing piece sees the return of the bells, as the circle is completed. If Satan had a Church...
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