Somnambule - Writing About Music

Paul Rutherford ~ Iskra3

Paul Rutherford is a veteran improvisor whose recorded history can be traced back at least to Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s releases in the 1960s. Since that time he’s worked with a huge number of musicians including Peter Brotzmann, Don Cherry, Krzysztof Penderecki, Han Bennink and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. Iskra3 was recorded live on 26 September 2004 and comprises seven pieces of solo trombone processed in real-time on computer by Robert Jarvis and Lawrence Casserley. Ombuhl builds into silvered screams, multilayered like gazing down into a hellish miasma from a distant gallery. Down there, stone whirls and roars in granular synthesis. Towards the end the noise recedes leaving Rutherford to spin tonal skeins across a large empty space.

Throughout the 71 minutes of Iskra3 the trombonist deploys all manner of sonic techniques: smears, grunts and roars, chuntering push-me-pull-yous and emphatic jellyfish stutters. Notes are expelled in sudden spurts of ether, vapour trails cast by erratic jets that move too fast for the naked eye to see. Rutherford swoops and soars like a duelling seabird trying to avoid a dogged aggressor. It may just be that he’s trying to avoid his own shadow as repeatedly reconfigured by Jarvis and Casserley. At times Rutherford’s performance brings to mind the late, great Albert Mangelsdorff, while some parts of Bodrivar suggest Hassell at his most processed and abstract. The computer treatments themselves are intermittently reminiscent of Stockhausen’s early elektronische pieces and the alien soundscapes of Brian Hodgson’s soundtrack work for Doctor Who.

The listener is directed by the liner notes to listen to the music in two parts (Iskra3 is helpfully divided into two acts). In fact, given the density of the performance, taking this music one track at a time might also be recommended. The synthetic tonal colours impart shimmering patinas upon, and haunted echoes of Rutherford’s playing which continually pushes at the edges of musical activity. Iskra3 is a fascinating work whose extended challenge may best be met only by the more determined or improv-experienced.
Colin Buttimer
August 2005
Published by the BBC