Over the course of the last year or so, Colin May, a writer for Oxford’s Nightshift magazine, has come to various gigs that I’ve been involved in around Oxford. He wrote a very nice review of the live debut of some of the pieces from ‘Deathless‘, and, last time I saw him, I gave him a complementary copy of the album as a ‘thank you’ for the live review.
Colin has taken the trouble to review the album for this month’s edition of Nightshift, and this is what he wrote:
“It’s doubtful whether any local band release will be as mired in blood as this one. Its inspiration is the Minotaur myth as re-imagined by Steven Sherrill in his novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, which has the Minotaur escaping the Labyrinth and living in a down-at heal trailer park having suppressed his appetite for a diet of Athenian virgins.
So we’ve got the original legend, Sherrill’s re-telling and Seagroatt and Staples’ take on that re-telling. The pair are renowned improvising musicians, so there’s free improv which is then manipulated and mixed until there are more layers than William and Kate’s wedding cake. You’ve also got a CD that can pose questions about compassion, redemption and forgiveness. Or you can forget about all this and just enjoy the music.
What Seagroatt and Staples have created is an album of instrumental and manipulated sound without any obvious tunes or hooks. It’s bookended by a couple of short vocal pieces, beautifully sung by Bobbie Watson, which describe and comment on Asterion the Minotaur’s situation. On most of the ten tracks in between Seagroatt’s magnificently lugubrious and pure soprano sax, bass clarinet and flute dominate. There’s almost none of the high-speed parping associated with free jazz, not even on the track ‘The Minotaur Sits Exhausted, Knuckles Skinless, Toes Sticky With Blood, Head In Hands’, a title which seems heaven sent for a bit of parping. Instead Seagroatt, like the late great fellow multi-reeds player Eric Dolphy, dazzles with plaintive lines which he never lets become the musical equivalent of limp soggy lettuce.
Seagroatt’s reeds and Staples’ sparse but richly atmospheric guitar are integrated with an ominously echoing, rumbling drone soundscape which, like Ariadne’s thread in the Labyrinth, runs through the CD. On a casual listen tracks might seem to be samey, though this would be to ignore the nuances and how the atmosphere builds track by track. To get the max out of this album you probably need to get the headphones on and close your eyes.
This clearly been a labour of love, and Jon Seagroatt has created something that in its way is magnificent in conception and execution, and perhaps unique in the local music landscape”.
How nice is that….? Well very nice indeed. Thanks once again to Colin May.