17 tracks from the gloriously active Singing Knives label, home of the new Sheffield underground, as explored in The Wire issue 310. There’s nothing here from Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides, probably the best thing on the Knives roster, but this is still a good haul, and the net is cast wider than you might expect. Pekko Käppi’s velvety drones on his Finnish-Karelian bowed lyre are at the pure folky end of the spectrum, while two tracks feature the Beirut Improv crowd: Mazen Kerbaj’s gritty BAO trio, and Christine Sehnaoui’s astonishing, hyper-calm sax multiphonics. If there’s a devotional quality to Sehnaoui’s solo sax playing, the ritual vibe is still more apparent on Infinite Light’s spacious metallic ululation, and U Boat’s mysterious vocals, like an Amazon tribal heads-down. Groups like these certainly seem to extend what’s allowed in Improv, till we tip over into Alberorovesciato’s organ and drums freakout, an Italian homage to Brazilian vampire movies.
An earlier generation of Sheffield improvisers is represented by John Jasnoch’s Navigators, skittish and intense. The electric guitar duo of Serfs could not be more different, and their stoned, aimless quality is also attractive. Essex based Helhesten are great too, with their twinkling dulcimers and hooting humans, while Ross Parfitt’s quadruple-sax drone is an Industrial riposte to Pekko Käppi’s folk fiddle.
Overall, there’s less of the naked instrumentality I would expect from other Knives associates like Part Wild Horses or The Hunter Gracchus, but there’s plenty here to get teeth and knives stuck into.
Clive Bell, The Wire magazine, January 2010, issue 311