Somnambule - Writing About Music

The Treecreepers

Red Rose Club, Thursday 22nd January 2004

The Treecreepers are a shifting unit of improvisers centred around the core duo of Pete Flood and Ian R. Watson. We enter the hall at the back of the Red Rose Club’s bar to find the sextet beginning to assemble on a stage bathed in dim red light. That light together with a lack of windows creates a feeling of out of timeness to the music that follows.

From Ashley Wales’ trestle table emanate a variety of sonics, atmospheres and samples. Known for his work as one half of Spring Heel Jack in their radically reinvented state as producers and players with free improvisation titans from both sides of the Atlantic, his contributions for the first part of the evening have a quality of there/not there-ness. Initially difficult to tell what he’s doing, as the number of quieter periods accumulate his soundscapes become more intelligible as he brings the sound of children shouting in the street into the hall, reels out skeins of white noise and creates subtle atmospheric cloudscapes. Lob’s Pete Marsh plays a couple of basses in the course of the evening - the first, a fairly regular looking electric bass produces a lovely viscose bass putty which it feels as though it should be possible to knead with one’s fingers; the second one he dons is a beautiful little thing – all neck and almost no body, out of which he summons notes which are sometimes bibbly/bobbly sometimes squelchy/squonky. Pete Flood of Little Tiny Children fires off volleys of crisp beats that are on the one even when he’s sitting listening and motionless. Shooting off at all angles, he makes rhythmic promises he’s determined not to keep and ensures meters skid this way and that like a car on black ice. Lol Coxhill traces out slanting geometries and oblique melodies on saxes, at times as unknowable as a proud, but attentive Persian cat. Cinematic Orchestra member Rhodri Davies plays harp and attendant treatments - for much of the concert his instrument is laid on its side and looks like a prop from Riven or Myst plucked and stroked by bows, cymbals, fingers and so on. Only when he rights it towards the end of the evening is its identity as a harp revealed. Ian R. Watson, also of Lob, plays pips, stabs and melodic fragments on trumpet which are built up in loops to create calming circles of sound like ripples on a still lake.

Throughout the evening the rhythm section of Petes Marsh and Flood construct skeletal armatures which the others alternately drift through like smoke or wrap themselves around like, well like treecreepers... Their sudden bursts of forward motion endure for anything from moments to minutes, but are ultimately arrested each time in various densities of fog, the group’s temporary cohesion atomised into periods of reflection, doubt and experimentation. A shifting centre of gravity becomes evident which sees each of the players set events in train or take solos which refuse traditional forms in favour of a shifting assortment of sonic and musical ideas. In this freely improvised music lack of direction is an inherent danger. Due to the attentiveness of each musician to his colleagues and to the possibilities of the sonic space they inhabit together, the enduring impression is of a schooner crewed by explorers blown in different directions by changing seawinds, but always brought back on course by judicious use of a democratic helm. This was an evening of driving, angular funk which mostly refused to lock into a groove but instead spat out successive fragments like the sections of a telescope opening. It was also an evening of mourning endsongs, warm meditations and ambient explorations. More please.
Colin Buttimer
Published by All About Jazz