Jim Denley and Cor Fuhler
Splitrec (Splitrec 24)
Reviewed by , January 1st, 2015

Two of Sydney’s finest improvisers team up on Truancy. Cor Fuhler (piano and preparations) and Jim Denley (alto saxophone and preparations) have both performed throughout the world, collaborating with some of the top free improvisers in the field.

This recording, made in Fuhler’s backyard, is comprised of two immersive soundscapes, Skive and Wag.

The encounter between Fuhler’s prepared piano, a constellation of humming, rattling and whirring produced by metal strings, the resonant frame of the piano and electronics, and Denley’s prepared sax, which foregrounds throaty textures and percussive pops, gives the impression of two related types of sound machine working together.

Jim Denley

Jim Denley

Something that I really appreciated about Truancy was how, often, it’s impossible to tell who is making what sound. I think it shows the players are onto something with a certain coherence, and it also, for me, introduces a dream-like quality to the listening experience. I’m not exactly sure what is achieved by transcending the ability of the listener to differentiate between individual players, but perhaps it makes us focus more on the sum total of the soundscape, rather than the movements of interaction between the improvisers. While there are many times when such moves are audible, for the most part this music is extremely together.

Denley’s playing (at least when you can decipher his saxophone from the general resonance) highlights the temporality of breath. His use of circular breathing enables him to stretch his ideas as far as he pleases, but, in comparison to the often steady rhythmic oscillations of Fuhler’s prepared piano, you can hear the waver and wane of many of Denley’s statements. It’s interesting being able to hear the saxophonist’s intake of breath, reminding the listener of the physical effort that goes into producing these sounds, a factor that, while obvious in the spectacle of live performance, is hidden within a recording. Of course, the sound of breathing is also just another ethereal element in the soundscape of Truancy.

Fuhler’s piano is often immersive and full, offering an open-ended structure to the improvisation, almost like an atmosphere surrounding Denley. His clusters of pure vibration – I’m not sure if this is produced by small motors placed on the strings or through more electronic means – are constantly evolving, although at times he grounds the music with percussive lower register figures. Despite the obvious extension of the range of the piano, Fuhler’s playing always sounds in some way natural and human: in other words, he avoids the highly compressed and electrified sounds often produced in electro-acoustic experimentation.

Cor Fuhler

Cor Fuhler

The episodic nature of both tracks suggests a teleology of tension and release, fashioned along intuitive lines. For this reason I found Truancy an easy listen, as it did not require any great feats of concentration: there was always something there, something interesting happening. Five minutes into the first track Skive we hear a moment of radio, perhaps a song by the pop band Coldplay. Later we hear an advertisement. These sound bites lend a kind of mobility to the soundscape that, working in combination with the spectral range evoked by both players, gives the impression of satillites picking up transmissions from technologies as prosaic and domestic as radios, right through to the sound-waves broadcast by the earth-as-sound-machine.

I can imagine more than just human ears appreciating the wide spectrum of sound on Truancy.

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