Group Listening - Square Chapel, Halifax - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Group Listening - Square Chapel, Halifax

by charles filtness Rating: Release Date:
Group Listening - Square Chapel, Halifax
Group Listening - Square Chapel, Halifax

Perhaps with the addition of 'Ambient Reworkings' Group Listening's 2018 debut album ‘Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works, Vol. 1' would be perfectly titled, similarly and unsurprisingly that description is also entirely fitting for tonight’s performance too. 

The album’s 8 tracks are taken from an eclectic and perhaps in places disparate mix of artists and composers.  All have been rearranged and reimagined into something entirely new and complimentary for the project.  The duo of Paul Jones and Stephen Black were at music college together before going their separate ways. Paul pursued his piano playing and composing more within the jazz and experimental areas of modern music whilst Stephen's path has been in the indie/alternative scene with success under his Sweet Babboo alias and also as a sometime Cate Le Bon collaborator amongst others.  That they reconnected over a shared appreciation of the artists they have covered on the Group Listening album is perhaps surprising given the distance between their solo pursuits.  For Stephen at least the difference in styles is comparable to that of the first Roxy Music releases and Eno's later Ambient series of albums for example. 

In this intimate live setting, we are treated to a full recital of the album, albeit in a different running order to the LP.  There is a song from Eno of course, also music by Disasterpeace, Robert Wyatt, Roedelius, Steve Roach and others.  Every piece is played as a duo; electric piano and clarinet, or on occasion bass clarinet, with the accompaniment of minimal electronics and taped backing track of sounds including bird song and insects in places.  A video screen plays a selection of 1970s looking science and natural history type films which are perfectly matched with the ambience of the music.

The hour-long performance is a mostly wonderfully relaxing and gentle affair, entirely in keeping with the ambient intentions and never veering towards anything more challenging sonically.  It’s all warmly received and the pair happily chat and introduce the songs; 'This is by a friend, Euros Childs, a Welsh hymn about a dog, or a hymn for a dog' before playing their interpretation of 'The Dog'.  The last song of the set is  'The Happy Whistler', a tune by Raymond Scott from his 1964 album 'Soothing Sounds For Baby, Volume 2'.  Scott was an American musician and prolific composer as well as successful jazz bandleader who also in his spare time and in his shed at home apparently, pursued his love for experimental music including designing and building some of the earliest electronic instruments and drum machines.  It’s a fascinating as well as musically rewarding gig, wholly enjoyable.

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