Somnambule - Writing About Music

Ed Lawes ~ 14 Tracks/Pieces

Ed Lawes springs out of nowhere, scaring the cattle and holding onto his liner notes much too tightly. This man needs an old fashioned bobby to raise his hand, palm outwards and say NO! to him. Take for example the following (brief) quote from the liner notes: “... from a minimal range of means (the returned trumpets at the beginning) to ‘a’ maximum range (a maximum within the limits I have set) (at their most... 3 violins, 3 doublebasses, 3 clarinets, 3 tenor saxophones, 3 trumpets all retuned into quartertones instead of semitones as the smallest unit of interval/harmony)...”. Such obsessive detailing doesn’t bode well for the music it describes. However.

‘Actually Real’ begins in Autechre airspace, its rhythms all sudden surges, left turns and momentary sustains. It's over too quickly, succeeded by something altogether sparser: ‘More Time Honoured’ sounds like it's played on multiple cellos and hovers plaintively in the lower registers. It’s an interesting companion piece/contrast to the opener. The music continues into starker territory still with ‘Bowed/Caused’ which heralds a partial return to electronics convincingly mixed with struck gongs and bowls. And murmured words. Lawes’ music paints pictures of bleak, lonely landscapes. ‘Brief Junk’ includes a welcome reappearance of rhythm - however unpredictable the tempo itself is - which continues into ‘Aclear’. Halfway through, the percussion seems to turn to mist and float away. It's the contrast between acoustic/orchestral/modern and electronic/percussive which makes this music effective, one without the other would be a significantly less engaging experience. There's a lot of space (silence) here, married to sparse instrumentation which alternately stretches and keens like queasy hymns.

’14 Tracks/Pieces’ recalls the less jazzy parts of Spring Heel Jack's recent forays into the worlds of free improvisation on Masses and Amassed. This isn’t easy music, it’s brave, singular, even perhaps courageous. Perhaps to the unenthusiastic these pieces will sound like laboratory experiments, too cool and clinical by far. To others, they’ll generously repay persistence.
Colin Buttimer
October 2004
Published by Milkfactory