Posts Tagged ‘edge2:isthmus’

The most affecting track on guitarist Julius Schwing‘s 2016 album edge2:isthmus is a piece called ‘Nocturnal at The Neck’. It is little more than a field recording of Schwing playing guitar on the sand of The Neck, an isthmus on Schwing’s home, Bruny Island off Tasmania. What makes it special is the accompaniment of wind and sloughing waves, which Schwing reacts to in his playing.

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This music-as-nature idea appears to be the inspiration behind his new recording with Danish percussionist, Christian Windfield, called Rhubarb. The two got together on Bruny in early 2017, spending time playing music surrounded by the island’s pristine wilderness and unpredictable elements. The collaboration led to peformances at Hobart’s Schmørgåsbaag venue where Rhubarb was recorded.

Over two extended pieces – named ‘Baag 1’ and ‘Baag 2’ – the two move in perfect rapport through varying textures. Using only guitar and drums (and objects) they conjure a remarkable range of sounds, from the gossamer light to the sharply abrasive, a wide dynamic curve from minimal throb to clattering skitter.a3162837903_16

The only constant appears to be the influence of the wilds of Bruny Island. This is music achieving one of the ultimates: to play with the elements, as an element. All truly masterful instrumentalists reach a point where the instrument – the machine, the tool – is transcended and their playing becomes their voice, as a bird sings or a lover moans or the wind howls.

What Schwing and Windfield do here is deeply primal – they play sand and water and whistling winds, dried beach grasses and dawn fogs. It is mesmerising, and time is irrelevant, or at least reduced to the dreamtime clock of nature.

Rhubarb is the latest release on Julius Schwing’s Isthmus label. It is a small, creative music label that keeps coming up with consistently fascinating music. Take the time to have a listen – you may be surprised, as I was, to smell the salt of Bruny Island coming off the music.

This album and others are available from http://www.isthmus-music.com

 

Tasmanian guitarist Julius Schwing has recorded a love letter to an isthmus.

The Neck is a narrow band of land on Bruny Island and Schwing has drawn on years of living with The Neck – and with all its moods ­­– to create edge2:isthmus as part of a collaboration with visual artists for MONA FOMA 2016.

He has absorbed the spirit and the magic of the Neck into his own body and released it as music using the sparest of means: the traditional jazz guitar trio of guitar, acoustic bass and drums. It needs nothing else to convey everything he needs to say.

Isthmus2Schwing writes: “When standing at the Neck I see/hear the environment along a pitch scale. Or a colour scale.”

As well as being about this unique formation specifically, edge2:isthmus seems to be about nature. It is also about man as part of nature, paradoxically fighting and hurting the thing he is has an inextricable link to.

‘From Within The Car Of A Comfortable Tourist’ bounces with a West African gait, almost comically depicting said Tourist, who I bet stays in his car, snapping away with his iPhone (great bass solo from Nick Haywood here).

‘They’re Gonna Seal The Road’ is a minor Spaghetti Western blues – an ‘agonised lament for the gravel road’, a weep for a small paradise, and its ‘prettiness’, paved over.

But, away from the anger, it is Schwing’s affirming pieces that make this album for me.

Opener ‘From Above’ ululates like wings, like a propeller as we rise into the sky and look down upon The Neck. ‘The Isthmus Exists’ is a statement of the nature of nature: change comes and goes, nature always is; The Isthmus Is.

‘Neck Nocturnal’ (based, it says here, on Ornette’s ‘Lonely Woman’) is Schwing painting The Neck after dark. It is lively – ‘I feel The Neck sleeps during the day and only comes alive at night’ – its guitar/bass/drums dance bringing to mind the great organic spark of John Abercrombie with Jack deJohnette and Dave Holland on ‘Gateway’ and other 70’s ECMs.Isthmus1

Last track ‘Quaternary Rage’ has the sound of anger – low growling guitar, squalling squealing bass, pulverised pulverising drums (drummer Alf Jackson, so sensitively intelligent on all other tracks, brutally storming here) – but it is not about anger, it is about natural power. It is the force of a roiling boiling storm blitzing The Neck from all sides – ‘the sand gets pushed around by all the elements’. This is nature grinding away, smashing and reshaping itself, with itself.

The most affecting piece on edge2:isthmus is ‘Nocturnal at The Neck’ – simply a restatement of the ‘Neck Nocturne’ theme played solo by Schwing. Solo, yet not solo – he is accompanied by the wind, and the soughing waves of The Neck itself. ‘Nocturnal at The Neck’ is recorded on the beach en plein air. It is a reminder that the wind of the Neck, the waves, the sand, the weeds, the millions of one-celled sand dwellers and the birds of the air are as much musical contributors to edge2:isthmus as are Schwing, Jackson and Haywood.

Listen and let The Neck surround and wash over you. You won’t hear anything like edge2:isthmus this year or any other past or future.

edge2:isthmus is available from Isthmus Music at www.isthmus-music.com