Combining the searching, raucous spirit of free improvisation, massive guitar textures and slowly shifting moods of the drone/doom-tradition the Saint Francis Duo proves there’s still a place for adventure and innovation in the world of improvised music. Four years after their debut recording as a duo, influential guitarist Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O))), KTL) and master percussionist Steve Noble (Rip, Rig & Panic, Brötzmann, Parker, Edwards …) reach an absolute peak on their third album ‘los bordes de las respuestas’. Mixed by Mark Urselli (John Zorn, Dave Lombardo … ) and mastered & cut by Matt Colton ( Thurston Moore, Aphex Twin) this limited and first release for the Antwerp based Dropa Disc label is an excellent example of the intense and adventurous musical interplay O’Malley and Noble generate as Saint Francis Duo, a must-hear for open-minded music fanatics and doom heads alike.
Dropa Disc #001 – soundinmotion.be
Saint Francis Duo: los bordes de las respuestas
LP edition of 500 – hand-numbered
Steve Noble: Drums & Percussion
Stephen O’Malley: Guitars & Amplifiers
Recorded by Michael Huon at Freakscene’s Summer Bummer, Zuiderpershuis, Antwerp 10 Aug 2014 Mixed by Marc Urselli, NYC 2015
Mastered & Cut by Matt Colton at Alchemy, London 2016
Produced by Stephen O’Malley
Live Concert produced by Sound in Motion
Cover Artwork by Ken Reaume / www.kennethreaume.ca
Photo’s by Geert Vandepoele & Mark Rietveld
Extended text by Guy Peters (Enola Magazine, Gonzo Circus, Cadence … ):
When Stephen O’Malley and Steve Noble appeared at Freakscene’s Summer Bummer Festival, many attending the show probably didn’t know what to expect. Weren’t these two musicians coming from entirely different places, after all? Paris-based O’Malley has been a crucial gure in avant-garde music for two decades now, as a guitarist, composer, visual artist, label founder and curator (and much more). Despite the diversity of projects like Khanate, KTL, Burning Witch, Æthenor and, of course, Sunn O))), he is heralded as one of the torchbearers of the drone/doom-world. Would this work with a drummer who is usually linked to the rumbling ruckus of modern free jazz?
Of course Steve Noble is more than ‘just’ a free jazz drummer. Since the early eighties, when he was a member of postpunk/jazzfunk unit Rip, Rig & Panic (indeed the same band that also introduced a young Neneh Cherry to the world), he has become a restless seeker, exploring the many guises of improvised music. Initially mainly in the company of British compatriots like Paul Dunmall, Derek Bailey and Alex Ward, but later on also in a more international context. In the past few years, he has worked with people as diverse as Ikue Mori, Martin Küchen and Akira Sakata, and together with bassist John Edwards, he became one of the most formidable rhythm sections in modern improvised music, forming units with Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Alexander Hawkins, Julie Kjaer, and more.
O’Malley and Noble’s duo actually started earlier, when Noble became a member of Æthenor, the dark experimental band O’Malley formed in the middle of the previous decade. Shortly after this collaboration, the two collaborated on their eponymous debut in 2012, around the time of these recordings still the only release available. Dropa Disc’s first release, los bordes de las respuestas (which translates to something like ‘the edges of the answers’ or ‘edges of responses/returns’), finds them in great shape: feeling, probing and pushing their way through forty minutes of highly intense improvised music. And the best thing is that they succeed in exploiting their respective backgrounds into something that holds a unique position in their respective discographies.
You get the forward thrust, the shift from subtle accents and shades to more expressive, tumultuous and, yes, voluminous havoc. And while it sounds as if O’Malley provides the core of the music, the obstinate, monk-like massiveness, the way Noble plays around him, serves as a background of restless clattering, rumbling and jolting cymbals. He operates in a tradition that may have started with percussion masters like Sunny Murray and Milford Graves, but incorporates different strands of forward-thinking music, becoming the ideal collaborator. The result is that traditions of determined continuity and restless/relentless transformation are merged into an organic whole that veers from whispers to monolithic thunder, and cajoles, blasts and engulfs the listener into submission.
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