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Clive Bell & Mike Adcock Sleep It Off Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Clive Bell and Mike Adcock improvise twelve miniatures with a variety of ethnic reed...

Peter Marsh 2003

Free improvisers are a funny bunch. There are those who like to argue endlessly over the aesthetics and politics of the music, while others prefer to let their instruments (ahem) do the talking. Those in the former camp may think that Clive Bell and Mike Adcock's use of ethnic instruments in their improvisations raises all sorts of extra thorny issues of cultural authenticity and so on. With musiclike this though, such arguments are pushed aside pretty conclusively.

Bell and Adcock played together in Accordions Go Crazy, a slightly peculiar avant ceilidh outfit whose polkas and waltzes were bookended by free improvisations. Here they revel in the strange, sometimes raw timbres of reed instruments such as the khene (Thai mouth organ), shakuhachi (Japanese flute) and the decidedly non-ethnic (and rather scary) stereo goathorn coupled with accordions and prepared piano to create 12 vibrant, delicate miniatures.

Bell's been doing this kind of thing for years; while having cornered the (admittedly small) market as a session musician offering such exotica in the studio and on stage, his other endeavours have includedimprov outfit British Summer Timeas well as being a member of Jah Wobble's ethnodub outfit Deep Space. His command of these obscure and unwieldy wind instruments results in a rich palette of whoops, breathy lyricism and throaty, buzzing rasps that pick their way through Adcock's shifting clouds of accordion drone or fragile prepared piano.

Sometimes the duo hint at the immersive deep listening droneology of Pauline Oliveros or the limpid expressionism of Toru Takemitsu; at other times traces of traditional musics appear, but shot through with an improviser's taste for the unexpected (this is the only record I'm aware of that features a duet between shakuhachi and sticky backed tape, which is probably enough to recommend it to some of us). Much of it is beautiful, but (as you may have guessed) it's not the pan global mush you might encounter playing in your local health food shop. This is honest, open, resonant music, sympathetically recorded. Sleep It Off could charm the birds from the trees, and might just do the same for you. Recommended.

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