review by Doug Mosurock
on Still Single (Jan 2015)

 

Bell plays the shakuhachi and Ross the “droscillator,” in a series of pulsing, glitchily rotund compositions, full of breath and pulse and nervous energy, and maybe a bit too much of 15-year-old early IDM/jazz crossover for my taste. Definitely sounds like something I would’ve heard inside the Brooklyn Anchorage, though it’s a testament to the quality of ini.itu’s finished products that would have me thinking that – the bass response on their pressings is truly insane. 250 numbered copies, comes with two postcards. (http://www.iniitu.net ) 
(Doug Mosurock)

 

   

review by Christoph Wagner
on Neue Zürchner Zeitung (Jul 2014)

 

Im Zen-Garten der Klänge


cwa. " Die japanische Bambusflöte Shakuhachi ist in der buddhistischen Meditationspraxis das Medium, den Atem hörbar zu machen. Entsprechend aufgeraut und heiser klingt ihr Ton. Begleitet von starken Luftgeräuschen, erinnert der Klang der Shakuhachi an das Heulen des Winds, der über einen kahlen Berghang streicht. Clive Bell aus London ist einer der profiliertesten Shakuhachi- Spieler der westlichen Hemisphäre. Seine Referenzliste reicht von David Sylvian über Bill Laswell bis zu Jaki Liebezeit. Obwohl der Engländer zwei Jahre beim Meister Kohachiro Miyata in Tokio studiert hat, ist er kein Solist der klassischen Tradition, sondern nutzt das alte Holzinstrument zum kreativen Improvisieren. Mit dem Elektroniker David Ross bildet Bell ein fulminantes Duo, das sich in sicherer Entfernung zu jedem elektronischen Ethno-Kitsch bewegt. Ross setzt mit diversen analogen Oszillatoren und Effektgeräten ein Gezeitenspiel aus immer wiederkehrenden Klangwellen in Gang. Oft unterlegt er die «soundscapes» mit dem dezenten Beat einer alten russischen Drummaschine, lässt es blubbern, knistern und zischen, ab und zu sogar ziemlich harsch knarzen. Clive Bell kann seine Flötentöne so gewaltig aufbrausen lassen, dass für einen kurzen Moment alle anderen Klänge dahinter verschwinden. Ein spannendes Verwirrspiel entfaltet sich um das Rätsel, welche Töne akustischer und welche synthetischer Natur sind – oder ob es sich vielleicht um elektroakustische Verfremdungen handelt? Dieser Zen-Garten der Klänge steckt voller Geheimnisse.

 

   

review by Richard Pinnell
on The Wire 365 (Jul 2014)

   

review by Jim Franklin
on Shakuhachi Society (Jun 2014)

 

Recovery Suite is an unusual recording in a number of ways. Firstly, it combines two disparate sound worlds – the “natural” sound of the shakuhachi, and the “artificial” world of electronically-generated and -manipulated sound – and deliberately questions their apparent antithesis. It also questions the nature of the recorded medium – in the days of mp3 files or CD recordings, the album has been released as a vinyl pressing, an art work not stored in digital form, and thus not inherently open to immediate and unlimited duplication. It is an object, tangible and thus more than a transient presence. Apart from its musical qualities, this lends the recording an intrinsic value, which is enhanced by the limitation to a production run of 250 copies (according to the press release).

So what is this unusual music? The press release suggests that David Ross initiated the project while bedridden and recovering from a back injury; during this time, the only instrument he could play was electronics. Clive Bell was later drawn into the project as shakuhachi-player and co-composer. Given the circumstances, the subject matter of the pieces is not surprising; they all relate to aspects of illness in various forms – physical as well as mental – reflected in the titles (such as “Trauma Unit”, “Locusts of Analgesia”, or “Recovery”).

Broadly speaking, the sound world reflects these themes; the electronic sounds, often in the form of loops, are reminiscent of, but by no means limited to, the sonic texture of medical electronics in an intensive-care unit – bleeps, hums, drones. The shakuhachi, which does not appear on every track, is nevertheless also drawn into this world. Its sounds are often ambivalent, ranging from noise, through tonally uncertain sustained notes with dynamic shifts of pitch and vibrato, through to trills and techniques (such as korokoro) which are clearly related to the shakuhachi canon.

While the shakuhachi has a clear canon on which its contribution is based, there is no such standard repertoire for the electronic elements. According to the press release, David Ross plays a customized analogue oscillator, known as a “Drosscillator”. Judging by the nature of the sounds produced, this is a rather complex instrument, allowing for a broad range of manipulation of pitch, timbre and dynamics, from subtle distortion and filtering of sound, through to generation of non-harmonic overtone structures (presumably though ring modulation and frequency modulation), as well as percussive drum, cymbal and gong sounds. In fact, the sound world of the electronics is reminiscent of that produced by Buchla series synthesizers; although no technical details are given, it would not surprise me if the Drosscillator were conceptually related to these instruments. (This is by no means intended as a denigration, but rather as a compliment to the richness and warmth of the sound world produced, and as an aid for those with a background in music synthesis to imagine the sonic atmosphere of the record.) It is also apparent that either the Drosscillator contains many oscillators and signal processing units, or that a process of multitracking has been employed in making the record; the press release and record cover provide no clues as to whether any multitracking was carried out in the digital domain, or using an analogue tape recorder, which would be conceptually consistent with the release on an analogue medium (LP record).

The combined sound world of shakuhachi and electronics tends, in this recording, to have something of a dream-like character. For some of the tracks, the term “nightmare” might be more appropriate; Ross and Bell have included the uncomfortable and disturbing elements of illness in their music. Drawing influences from free improvisation and loop composition (often with electronic percussion loops and drones which cast a nod to the electronica scene without being limited to the musical syntax of that genre), the pieces tend to come and go as open forms, and dream-like discontinuities and shifts of material and texture are common. The result is not aesthetically “rounded” or “satisfying” in the sense that, for instance, Western classical music aims at aesthetic polish; rather, it is disturbing, without being “threatening” – and above all, it is fascinating, drawing the listener in.

Despite the openness of the forms of many of the tracks, there is nevertheless a clear level of structural thinking in the pieces’ composition. This is demonstrated particularly in the exploration of the relationship between the sound worlds of the shakuhachi and the electronics, which is (in my perception) an important aspect of the project. The apposite questions are: do these sound worlds meet and merge? And if so, how? The answer to the first question, I believe, is “yes”, and I consider this to be one of the successes of the recording. Of the eleven tracks on the LP (the last of them without title, a “hidden” bonus track, as it were), three are without shakuhachi, at least in any obvious sense; I won’t exclude the possibility that some of the sounds in these tracks are derived from the shakuhachi by processing which obscures their origin. The others evince various forms of interrelationship: from apparent opposition (at the start of Side A, track 6, “Sleep Healing”), through to a high degree of unification (in Side B, track 4, “Arrhythmia 2″), in which the more or less acoustic sound of the shakuhachi appears to be paralleled by a processed version of the same line (with vibrato, filtering, modification of harmonic content) in textural counterpoint with electronic sounds (gong-like loops, and ethereal, triadic, sustained tones). The tracks which employ shakuhachi with the electronics all locate themselves somewhere on this spectrum; I personally find “Sleep Healing” particularly interesting, as it runs the entire gamut from contrast between shakuhachi and electronics, through to their integration, and the shakuhachi emerges at the end of the piece as the dominant force.

The result of the levels of musical thought and exploration of these diverse sound worlds and their interrelationship is a highly unusual and, I believe, successful recording. The fact that this is a niche work is clearly recognized by the musicians, as evidenced by the production of only 250 copies. Nevertheless, it is an interesting and significant niche work, and the recording deserves to be heard by many more than the 250 people who will eventually own the LP.

Jim Franklin

Dr. Jim Franklin is a shakuhachi master in the Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan; he received his shihan-menjō from YOKOYAMA Katsuya in 1996. He is also a trained composer, and he frequently works with the combination of shakuhachi with live electronics.

 

   

review
on Textura (May 2014)

 

The always interesting ini.itu label returns with three new vinyl releases whose musical terrain extends from the “dystopic lounge ambiance” of David Ross and Clive Bell and the “serenity and alienation” of Anla Courtis to the imaginary landscapes of Anaphoria. 

(...)

Similar in adventurous spirit is Recovery Suite, whose ten unusual pieces merge the drosscillator (a customized analog oscillator) manipulations of David Ross with the shakuhachi (Japanese flute) playing of Clive Bell. “Dystopic lounge ambiance” isn't a bad label for what the two are up to, given the relaxed, free-floating feel of the album material, and the press release's statement that Recovery Suite is “free music, but not in the free jazz way” also makes a lot of sense. Given the exotic soundworld presented, the suggested reference points, among them Cluster and Fourth World Vol 1: Possible Musics by Brian Eno and Jon Hassell, turn out to be accurate, too.

While Bell doesn't appear on every track, Ross does, which makes the drosscillator the dominant sound element on the recording. The device is capable of generating a broad range of sounds, however, soRecovery Suite avoids sounding repetitive. Drosscillator-generated clicks, pops, whirrs, throbs, sputter, primitive beat patterns, and even a melodic pattern or two surface within the tracks, with Bell's breathy shakuhachi blowing bolstering the distinctive character of the tracks on which he appears. When the two combine forces, the album takes on the feel of a plunge into an uncharted jungle, with the heat and humidity so intense that the increasingly disoriented traveler grows unsure of whether the unsettling sounds are real or the product of hallucinations. At such moments, the album is best experienced with the lights turned off and the curtains drawn.

 

   

description by Chris
at Toolbox Records (Apr 2014)

 

Sounds gathered and ambience made of crazy melodies collages with a serious obsession about illness and hospitals... Playing the pan Flutes like Throbbing was playing the saxo.

 

   

review by Frans de Waard
on Vital Weekly 925 (Mar 2014)

 

It's not easy to decide what to play first if a parcel arrives from one of your more favourite labels, but I decided to start with the one that I was least familiar with. Here we have Clive Bell and David Ross, the latter also works as Twinkle3 (raise that 3 a bit please, editor) with Richard Scott and as such already delivered a LP on Ini.itu. When Scott had a back injury, Ross worked furthe1r on music and the material he recorded solo turned out to be a playground for Clive Bell. The instruments are limited to a 'drosscillator' for Scott and the shakuhachi for Bell (who played this instrument also on records by Jah Wobble, Paul Schutze, Jeff Beck, David Sylvian and Bill Laswell). Many of the records on this label deal with some Indonesian aspect, but that's something that is not apparent on this record, it seems. Here we have music that owes more to the world of improvisation than ethnic music perhaps. The drosscillator takes care of some of the more nasty tones, but the flute makes this all a bit lighter, even when he doesn't seem to appear on every track. They play relatively short (-ish) pieces here and it has an odd, but perhaps jazz like feel to it. I am not too sure about this whole excursion. It seems very hard to get in to this. I don't think it's bad and I think they do something that is worthwhile, but somehow I don't think I feel I am the intended audience. It's maybe all a bit too free form for my taste and perhaps a bit too much jazz like. I was reminded of some of the latter day works of Rafael Toral and I had trouble with these too.

 

 

 

description by Mike
from Norman Records (Mar 2014)

 

"Dystopic lounge ambiance", says the press release to this peculiar new LP from David Ross, playing a customised analogue oscillator dubbed the drosscillator, and Clive Bell on shakuhachi, which is a Japanese flute. The oscillator flickers and booms and chirps in weird modulating circles, varying from spacey throbs and paranoid glitches and twitches to dizzying layered rhythms over which the shrill, fluid flute can be heard jazzing away vigorously.

Emphasis seems to largely be on the electronics, a woozy, constantly-shifting soup of shudders and bleeps which often chug along unaccompanied, making the flute's contributions all the more conspicuous when they are there, a human touch in a terrifying mechanised landscape, sometimes contrasting with its surroundings and sometimes at one with them. 'Post-Trauma Unit' pairs a dubby bloopscape with breathy panicked squeals cleverly building up the tension. This is an inviting but confusing record, one for deep listening late at night. Unpredictable but soothing and evocative.

 

   

description on Metamkine (Mar 2014)

 

David Ross, électroniques. Clive Bell, shakuhachi. On retrouve notamment ces deux musiciens dans Twinkle , avec Richard Scott. Une orchestration limitée et étrange sur le papier, une confrontation de cultures et d'esthétiques rendue perméable par la liberté des musiciens et les liens directs au niveau du son. C'est délicat, complexe et luxuriant à la fois. 250 copies avec deux inserts.