Maurizio Ravalico and Oren Marshall, In Thunder RiseĀ (Not-Applicable)

In Thunder Rise

Maurizio Ravalico is an Italian percussionist, and Oren Marshall an English brass player. Which should make In Thunder Rise a duo album, and most definitely the first conga and tuba duo album I’ve covered on this site (I’m pretty confident on that one). But look a little closer: there is a third name below the two headliners on the front cover of this new double album – that of Isambard Khroustaliov, the alter ego of Icarus’s Sam Britton, and one of the founders of the Not-Applicable label. Britton’s role is an interesting and important one – he was responsible for recording the two instrumentalists in a variety of outdoor settings, and for facilitating the introduction of a fourth, unbilled player into the lineup: the city of London itself.

In Thunder Rise was recorded in a number of different locations in south east London, including in a park, in a foot tunnel, by a busy road, near a train line, and next to the river. Each of these brings its own acoustic properties, and its own particular set of background noises, and the manner in which the album was recorded accentuates these. Microphones were fixed above the instruments, but Britton was equipped with a further set which he could use to record whatever he liked – making decisions in real time, moving about the space, pointing the microphones at the instruments, and then towards the sky, to the traffic, at people passing by, and listening to other more industrial sounds, creating a three-dimensional map of the place, inserting the listener at the heart of the process, and also blurring the lines between the real and the recorded. I’ve listened to this album on headphones outdoors several times, and found myself pausing to look for birds that aren’t there, or – more alarmingly – to avoid being hit by a thankfully non-existent reversing truck.

But there is more to this than the interaction between listener and location. Lest we forget, there are congas and tubas in here too. Ravalico and Marshall are determinedly unconventional in their approaches to their respective instruments on In Thunder Rise, as often as not not eschewing rhythm or melody in favour of a focus on tone and timbre – for example Ravalico brushing the head of his drums, or Marshall blowing airily through his instrument. This is because In Thunder Rise is – as if this wasn’t obvious enough already – pretty far from being a conventional duo album. As much as they are interacting with each other, they are responding to their environment: reacting to weather conditions with drones, creating the sound of a passing train with deep pulses, simulating mobile phone signal interference with staccato phrases, joining in others’ conversations, or even just evoking sensations of space, or of danger. This is far more than just an album of duets, this is an ensemble piece both featuring and dedicated to London, to its geography, to its networks, to its people, and to its moods. It is an album born of a love that cannot be shaken by downpours, by filthy streets, by the potential for violence, or even by missed buses.

In Thunder Rise is released on October 15 on Not-Applicable. The label is also having a bit of a festival in Berlin in mid September. More details on their website.


Mark Templeton, Khroustaliov/Ravalico and Inch Time at Cafe Oto, 19/07/10


Hellosquare are, as they kept reminding us through the course of this evening, “a small Australian label”. Humble Australians. Fancy. They made this voyage round the globe to put on a one-off show at Cafe Oto featuring some friends of the label – not just from Australia, but from Canada, Italy and the UK too. They’ve previously featured on this site thanks to releases by ex-Triosk pianist Adrian Klumpes, but they’ve quietly gone about amassing an experimental catalogue which also includes notable albums by the likes of Seaworthy, Mia Clarke and Andy Moor, M.Rosner and Mike Cooper, making this show a good time to check in with where their heads are at.

Inch Time, or Stefan Panczak, is the Australian ex-pat on the bill. After a Vangelis-like intro, He performed a very compact, or rather very Kompakt laptop set, featuring 4/4 rhythms punctuating an air of dreamy ambience. Those Wolfgang Voigt-like hisses and foggy progressions were joined in the second half of his performance deployed an increasing number of dub effects, metallic echoing sounds punctuating some slight keyboard melodies. Pleasant. Probably too pleasant for me as a live show, although Cafe Oto isn’t the right place for this sort of thing (darker and louder would have been better, even following Voigt’s lead with unsettling visuals to provide a visual counterpoint).

Unsurprisingly, the following set by Maurizio Ravalico and Isambard Khroustaliov (aka Sam Britton from Icarus), two of the Not-Applicable collective, was somewhat rougher. Ravalico was improvising on a pair of surdos, with Khroustaliov processing and interacting with him in real time. Ravalico scattered cymbals on top of his drums, rolled marbles on the skin, beat the sides with sticks, bowed the rims, and traced a wet finger across the skin. As well as being incredibly watchable (at times, the sheer number of items on his kit made this look more like a fast-paced cookery show than a musical performance), this gave Khroustaliov a huge array of sounds to work with, isolating rhythms and frequencies and throwing them back at Ravalico at breakneck speed for him to bat away. Ravalico has an album out soon (also featuring Khroustaliov, but more prominently Oren Marshall) which he describes a psychogeographic conga/tuba album, recorded outdoors in London. That sounds crackers (and a must-hear).

mark templeton

I’ve been a fan of Canadian Mark Templeton since the release of his excellent debut Standing On A Hummingbird album in 2007. His performance tonight began much like that album does – with no messing about, catching the dozens outside still enjoying their cigarette break by surprise with some abrasive drone. Templeton’s set was most obviously reminiscent of Fennesz or Tim Hecker, but busier – constantly bringing in new sounds from laptop (guitar, often) or cassette, treating them harshly with savage jump cuts and by panning them from side to side, then discarding them. After a middle section which sounded like bombs detonating, the table in front of him looked like a battlefield, covered in fallen D90 warriors. When the chaos subsided there was deep, submerged melody, reaching its hauntological apex with a closing treatment of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” from his forthcoming Ballads EP, extricating something quite powerful from ostensibly feeble source material. He left Richie lost and confused in an electronic sea, crooning “I wonder where you are”, as the waves of static built up and finally washed over him.