Reviews of 'Click' by bonehouse
Cadence Magazine, Sept 98
Hargreaves and Morton are in quest of the same grail Guy and Gustafsson were after on Frogging, but Click gets much closer because it isn't so doctrinaire. There's the same utilization of breathy pad clicking and chirpy squeaking for extended periods, but Morton's backgrounds lend a mournfulness and urgency that's not found on the Maya release. In addition, since the players here seem less concerned with obtaining perfect randomness, they are free to listen and respond to each other to a degree seemingly not allowed on Frogging. On "Fremescent," Morton's only occasional interjections make Hargreaves halting dissertation on flute seem deeper (more like a helpless railing against the universe) than it would have given the sort of steady, thrashing accompaniment found on the Guy release. Morton's playing is in the Bailey tradition, but his range of styles and attacks is broader. He's a bit less cerebral than Bailey. Though some of his efforts fall flat, he seems willing to access a larger segment of his subconscious than is the older master. Morton's barely audible, ring modulated chorale that opens "Forgotten People" is very moving. He lays a soft, chordal carpet for Hargreaves' sorrowful (and tuneful) entrance on clarinet. The background electronics on "Mortal" is pleasantly disturbing, and Morton also does some nice (uncredited) violin work on this cut. He's clearly a man of several talents. This isn't a great record; there's an unhealthy dollop of cold noodle soup splashed on almost every piece. Hargreaves is not as consistently sure of his flutterings as Parker, Butcher, (or even Gustafsson). It probably would have been better if he'd laid out the entire 13-minute "Occurrence of a Face", where Morton does his most inventive flailing. Nevertheless, Click shows that it is possible to make a predominantly non-narrative, non-repetitive recording affecting and, at times, beautiful.
Sound Projector #4
A debut CD from a team of Liverpool-based improvising musicians, Phil Morton (guitar and effects) and Phil Hargreaves (saxophones and flute). A pretty effective coupling of the duo, who have been playing together for six years and perhaps trying to start some sort of free-playing scene up in the Pool of Life, in the face of (one suspects) an indifferent and apathetic audience. Hargreaves started musical life in an early punk band, where he came to hate the noise of a guitar, and to love the liberating possibilities of improvising. He's played with local pop bands and a new music combo called The Hub Ensemble. Morton has experimented with tape pieces. They have hooked up for sessions with Derek Bailey and saxophonist Tony Bevan.
This is a pleasant CD but a tad tame - you might think six years of playing would have nurtured more interesting musical conversations between the duo. The best track for me is 'Mortal', which uses the tape-delay to set up a looped rhythm, over which the guitar proceeds to imitate a mass of violins while the saxophone just sits and moans. More than a trace of King Crimson's Larks Tongues in Aspic here, and not just the David Cross violin impersonation - the same portentious sense of alarm and doom prevails. I prefer the minimal playing here to that on some of the other tracks, performances which are competent enough but somehow deliver too many notes per square inch. With the stuttering sax blasts and volume-pedalled guitar, the sound is highly reminiscent of Derek Bailey and Evan Parker playing together, yet somehow Bonehouse lack the necessary friction, or attack. They can be a bit too polite with each other and one senses a certain lack of adventure. This soft-centredeness extends to the slightly twee titles, such as 'Forgotten People' and 'The occurrence of a face'. These titles could almost be avant-garde ripostes to 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'I've just seen a face'. Does every Liverpudlian man have a potential Paul McCartney living inside him?
Morton and Hargreaves make a joyfully gritty noise on this first release from Liverpool-based Nerve Technologies label. The two of them have been working together for some time, and you can tell; they bounce off each other well, allowing ideas to flit between them and fearlessly pushing the music forward.
Hargreaves is a free jazzer with a wide range of high-volume squeaks and squeals in his arsenal, but he doesn't rely on them to do all the work for him. Playing more conventionally than many in this kind of free improv, he clearly enjoys using patterns of notes in his music as well as abstract sounds. If the occasional crack between these two approaches is noticeable, it's because he gets it right so often. Perhaps this is down to the fact that his imagination is so febrile and hyperactive, never wanting to stay in one place for long, with an absolute antipathy to aimless noodling. The pair have a nice knack of changing the music's direction quickly and with apparent ease, cutting a loud passage to a whisper, or allowing a drone-based section to become suddenly pointillistic. These changes always feel logical, which make the seven pieces on this release very varied and very listenable indeed.
Morton uses preparations extensively. Since it's almost impossible to come up with anything really new in terms of prepared guitar sounds any more, his playing can hardly be accused of gimmickry. Going with the prepared-piano sounds which come from wedging things between or under the strings, Morton proceeds to play these preparations rather than just let them speak for themselves, manipulating the sound of each note without resorting to electronic over-processing. Although he's very much in the accompanying role for much of this disc, he fills that role admirably and contributes a great many ideas of his own. It's nice to hear him stretch out (as on "Mortal", for instance) but his less up-front role shouldn't be perceived as a less crucial one.
Where the full-on quality which some of this playing has can be hectic in some musicians' hands, it isn't here. The reason is that everything fits together so well. The reason us lazy journalists haven't picked up on Morton and Hargreaves before is probably that they're not based in London. That kind of parochialism just isn't sustainable; it risks ignoring too many fine players. This is a very promising start for Nerve Technologies, and a release from two musicians to watch out for in the future.
Come along intrepid musical travelers to the lightly-explored heart of EuroImprov, where brave jazz folk give their all to try to uncover new sounds. It's a realm far beyond tunes, grooves or notes, recorded without overdubs. And the Bonehouse two are particularly good at this wilderness trekking. Hargreaves and Morton both had their flings with punk and pop music -- no surprise considering they hail from Liverpool, home of the Beatles. But for the past few years they've dedicating themselves to experimental jazz. In the past they've worked with such British improvisers as guitarist Derek Bailey and saxophonists Evan Parker and Lol Coxhill. But since they're from a younger generation they approach the journey with a different perspective. Morton, especially, brings more of a literal electric sound to his fretwork. And it can certainly be more in your face than improvisations from earlier guitarists like Bailey and Roger Smith. Plus his talent and/or (electronic) "treatments" allow him to alter what he produces so that on "Fremescent," for instance, it sounds as if he's scratching a balloon rather than a pick guard and "Forgotten People" opens with something that could as easily come from chimes. On "Mortal," there are times the guitar seems to turns into a violin or even a bagpipe, while an unwarying background drone defines the shape of the track.
Hargreaves isn't sitting still either. (Or maybe he is, depending on how he plays). Mostly he sees his role as complimenting Morton's excursions by exposing single notes and flurries of pure sounds. This results from what can be produced by his chesty flute playing or excursion on his saxophones, which aren't named, but are probably a tenor and a soprano. "The Occurrence Of A Face," which soon becomes a challenge to see which horn lines best match split-second string fingerings, actually display several lyric saxophone sections. Would Hargreaves be amused or insulted to find out that he can remind listeners of a sort of Bizarro Stan Getz on several brief passages? Since this CD was completed (1997) Hargreaves and Morton have gone on to individual projects. But at least they left behind this 57 minute sound picture of how well they functioned together.
All Music Guide
Recorded over two studio sessions in late 1997, Click features Phil Morton on guitar and Phil Hargreaves on saxophone and flute. The music is one hundred percent improvised, raw, untamed. Even though subtlety is not completely evacuated, there is a sense of urgency and a desire to shake things up. This punkish attitude -- which does not translate into Peter Brötzmann-like overpowering -- finds a resonance in the track titles: Swarm, Forgotten People, Pink Trash, Mortal. Morton's playing is strongly influenced by Derek Bailey, but when he starts strumming and things escalate, one thinks more of René Lussier. His use of digital loops allows him to multiply his parts. It is refreshing for once to hear a guitarist employing such a device for something else than creating a thick wall of sound. Hargreaves is more puzzling: aggressive in his delivery, he turns out to be mostly tonal, even often melodious. The parts where he plays flute stand out, simply because it is rare to hear a flutist playing free improv, let alone duetting with a guitarist. On soprano saxophone he tends to follow Lol Coxhill's footsteps. The pair keeps a good pace throughout the album. Granted, Click is not transcendent, and even though it does not stand above the sea of free improv CDs released in the late 1990s, it deserves to be heard, if only for The Occurrence of a Face.