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The Apophonics — On Air (2013)

 The Apophonics — On Air (2013)

The Apophonics — On Air
ψ   The three musicians who are The Apophonics first played together in the eight-piece John Butcher Group at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November 2008. 2012 studio sessions recorded for BBC Radio 3 "Jazz on 3" from the trio of John Butcher (sax), John Edwards (bass) and Gino Robair (energised surfaces & synth), slowly unfolding dialogs using extended techniques and a focus on textural playing.
Location: London, England/San Francisco Bay Area, California
Album release: 2013
Recorded on May 2nd, 2012 at Phoenix Studios, Pinewood, UK.
Record Label: Weight of Wax (WOW 05)
Duration:     48:50
Tracks:
01 Fires Were Set     36:13
02 Met By Moonlight     7:57
03 London Melodies     4:40
Personnel:
John Butcher: saxophones
John Edwards: bass
Gino Robair: energised surfaces, synth
Press:
ψ   „Built around extrasensory sonic perception their strategy advanced amoeba-like, continuously melding and breaking apart timbres in different configurations and with varied possibilities. Edwards' super-speedy wood and string smacking was sometimes appropriately violent; Butcher's output jumped from sonorous glissandi to staccato reed bites and Robair's holistic approach sometimes seemed child-like as he smacked his mallets on the stage floor, rubbed a violin bow on drum rims and literally blew on the drum skin. The saxophonist's lines could be sonorously wispy or could consist of reed finger-tapping or using foot-pedal-controlled electronics to pick up the feedback generated as he moved his tenor in different arcs without blowing into it.“ — Ken Waxman
REVIEW
By JOHN EYLES, Published: November 25, 2013
ψ   For those who do not recognise the group name, let’s introduce The Apophonics — on saxophones, from London, England, John Butcher… on bass, also from London, England, John Edwards… and, on energised surfaces and synth, from San Francisco, California, drummer Gino Robair. The more savvy reader will have spotted that On Air is released on Weight of Wax, Butcher’s own record label, so the presence of the saxophonist will be no surprise.
ψ   The membership of the trio is no surprise either, as Butcher has collaborated separately with Robair and Edwards since 1997. After the three first played together in Butcher’s eight-piece group that recorded somethingtobesaid (2009: http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/5170) at the 2008 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the trio formed in 2011 and played concerts in France and Belgium.
ψ   The group name is related to the title of the Butcher-Robair duo album, Apophenia (Rastacan, 2011). The word “apophenia” describes the human tendency to sees patterns which do not really exist in random data, for instance seeing recognisable shapes in cloud formations or ink blots. “Apophonia” is not a real word but it would describe a similar tendency to hear patterns in random sounds. So, “The Apophonics” would seem to be a subtly humorous, self-mocking name. Good on them.
ψ   As its title implies, On Air was recorded to be broadcast on radio, specifically on BBC Radio 3's “Jazz on 3” programme. The studio recording was made in May 2012 and is BBC quality, with every detail and nuance captured perfectly. The music consists of three improvisations, an extended — thirty-six minute — piece, plus another of eight minutes, and the third just under five. All three tracks demonstrate why the musicians decided to become a trio; they display the kind of empathy and understanding that is only born of long exposure to each other and years of playing together, the kind that gives a convincing impression of telepathy at work.
ψ   Unsurprisingly, the sounds of Butcher’s saxophones are the main focus of the album; he roams far and wide, testing out the limits of his horns. As so often, his playing style is distinctive and individual as he manages to avoid clichés — his own or other people’s — and keep it fresh without sounding gratuitously “experimental.” Key to that is his essential sense of melody; time and again he intersperses passages of innovative technique with spontaneously improvised melodic passages that are lilting, poignant and beautiful.
ψ   However, no way is this a trio of saxophone plus support, but an amalgamation of three equal voices into a coherent whole; if any of the three elements were absent, the music would be the poorer for it. Edwards and Robair each get their turns in the spotlight and use them to good effect. But the album’s most impressive passages of play are easily those in which all the players are in full flight together, the three strands intertwining perfectly. The Apophonics seem set to be a most impressive combination, both on disc and live. Miss them at your peril.
GINO ROBAIR
ψ   Gino Robair is an American composer, improvisor, drummer, and percussionist. In his own work (as a soloist and in improvisation ensembles), he plays prepared/modified percussion, analog synthesizer, ebow and prepared piano, theremin, and bowed objects (polystyrene, customized/broken cymbals, faux daxophone, metal). Although Gino is often referred to as a jazz musician, he grew up playing both rock and concert music.
ψ   Based on the cryptic liner notes of recent releases (for example, the duo CD "Sputter" with Birgit Ulher), it is not always clear what instruments Robair is playing. In recent interviews (Paris Transatlantic, The Wire), he notes that the term "energized surfaces" refers to the use of drums as resonators for other objects, which he bows, scrapes, rubs, or activates with an ebow, motors, or compressed air through a horn. "Voltage made audible" is used to describe analog electronics and circuit bent instruments.
ψ   As a composer, Robair has written pieces for a variety of ensembles (including the ROVA Saxophone Quartet), scored numerous Shakespearean plays with the California Shakespeare Festival (where he was music director for five years), and created jingles for radio and television. He also served as music director and composer (within the Club Foot Orchestra) for the CBS/Film Roman Saturday morning cartoon series "The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat".
ψ   His large-scale work, "I, Norton," is an opera based on the life of Emperor Norton, which combines improvisation, graphic scores, game pieces, and fully notated scores. ψ   The piece was featured in the documentary Noisy People, by Tim Perkis.
Gino Robair is the former editor of Electronic Musician magazine, and he runs Rastascan Records.
ψ   Robair frequently tours North America and Europe as a soloist and often improvises in ad hoc groups. He has recorded with Anthony Braxton, Tom Waits, John Butcher, LaDonna Smith, Otomo Yoshihide, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison, Eugene Chadbourne, Club Foot Orchestra, ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Birgit Ulher, Beth Custer, and Fred Frith, and many others. In addition, he has performed with John Zorn, Nina Hagen, and Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. He is also a founding member of the Splatter Trio and Pink Mountain.
ψ   His academic work includes composition studies with Barney Childs at the University of Redlands and Lou Harrison, David Rosenboom, and Larry Polansky at Mills College. He studied percussion with Ron George, William Kraft, William Winant, and Eddie Prévost of AMM. He also studied Javanese Gamelan with Jody Diamond and Widyanto, and wrote several works for the instruments.
ψ   In addition to his work operating the Rastascan label, Gino Robair had been active in the 1990s organizing music venues, notably "the Dark Circle Lounge" series, which in the 1990s was located in the Hotel Utah bar in San Francisco. He has often been regarded as one of the more active members of the Bay Area Improv Scene.
ψ   Gino Robair currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.
Photo: Robair in 2007 with analog synthesizer (Doepfer/Plan B/Livewire) at KFJC, Los Altos Hills, CA
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The Apophonics — On Air (2013)

 

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