Somnambule - Writing About Music

Kaffe Matthews ~ Eb and Flo

Eb and Flo is a double cd comprising 17 tracks with a total duration of almost an hour and three quarters. First track, “Long Line Starting” begins with a high-pitched sine tone which alters so gradually that the change is almost imperceptible. Its successor, “Clean Tone Falling” lives up to its titular description and then inevitably betrays it by having its tone fall precipitiously. It’s a gorgeous, minimal piece until some close-mic’ed rustling interrupts its serenity after six minutes. As the intensity of this noise increases, a maddeningly patient tone gently pulses like an automated public warning whose very calmness provokes even greater panic. There’s a keen sense of stripped-down drama here, the tranquility of the first part becoming a distant memory by the track’s end. “She Could” betrays the first sign of overt rhythm in its chugging initial passage, though it’s soon stripped back to the barest of clicks before turning a sharp left into a pingpong pattern of electrical call and response. “For Mama” is a gorgeous piece of elongated quavering which after five minutes is succeeded by the sort of ambient sound surely captured in an urban park.

Eb and Flo is full of tiny incident, such that it might be a catch of delicate signals from the nightsky caught in an Arecibo dish. It seems undeniable that Matthews must have recorded these pieces in a quiet, spare space, their relative simplicity allowing for a rare degree of suggestive resonance. Throughout there’s an attractive sense of careful detail laid bare which engenders the desire to pay close attention. Listening to these pieces might be compared to eavesdropping upon a scientist busy with mysterious experiments. Some tracks begin deliberately, as if carefully planned, but they end up in seemingly unexpected places. Others appear to be the outcome of unanticipated conjunctions: ‘what will happen if this node is soldered to that one?’ Matthews seems to wonder. Intriguing listening.
Colin Buttimer
July 2004
Published by Grooves magazine