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The Treecreepers At The Mill Review

Album. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

...playful, approachable music...

Gordon Miles 2006

If this pair were Norwegian, they'd probably be on their fifth UK tour by now. They'd be written about breathlessly in glossy magazines and be regularly featured on certain late night programmes on Radio 3 with Scandinavian leanings.

But as they're not, this hasn't happened (well, not yet anyway). This duo consists of trumpeter Ian R. Watson and drummer/percussionist Pete Flood. Collectively they've had experience in rock (Julian Cope, Gallon Drunk, Union Wireless), folk (Bellowhead), jazz and free improvisation; both have worked as part of Spring Heel Jack's extended collective of improvisers.

This eclecticism feeds into the Treecreeper's rich, vibrant music. While their music is improvised, the duo forgo the abstractions and strictures of traditional free improv for something altogether more expansive and emotionally rewarding. An extra dimension is added by Flood's occasional 'posthumous electronics' and editing; extra dollops of filtering, distortions and even the odd bit of collage take the duo almost into electro-acoustic territory (check the opening "Nightjar" or "Kwar" for evidence.

Watson uses live electronics to augment his pure-toned trumpet. One minute he's stacking up fat clouds of dolorous, hymnal brass; the next, he'll shatter the near silence with a colossal low register fart or keening, vocalised cries reminiscent of some exotic bird (a few real birds make unscheduled appearances throughout the recording). Watson is at heart a melodist though, and on occasion a deeply effective one (check the cooly beautiful "Wryneck"). He's also not afraid to shut up when there's nothing to say.

Flood's percussion is equally as versatile. There's free jazz, Beefheartian clatter, lashings of bells, chimes and rusty metal; even (for a few bars only) there's some old school heavy funk. He propels, comments and decorates throughout with virtuosity but no flash, whipping up quiet polyrhythmic storms behind Watson's mercurial trumpet figures.

'At the Mill' lies somewhere between the loopy ambient fusion of The Spaceheads and the playful exotica of Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell's duets. It's playful, approachable music that's worth your time. Now if they changed their names to Stig and Nils, they might be on to something...

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