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GAIL BRAND trombone
PHIL DURRANT electronics & acoustic violin
PAT THOMAS electronics & acoustic piano
MARK SANDERS percussion

1 - PLANARCHY - 16:01
4 - NO FILTERS - 4:10

5 - MULL IT OVER - 9:15
6 - ROTHKO - 5:58

1 - 4: Digital concert recording, Amsterdam (Bimhuis - dOeK Festival #2) - 2002 June 1.
Recorded and mixed by Dick Lucas.
5 - 6: Digital studio recording, London (Gateway Studios) 2000 December 18.
Recorded and mixed by Steve Lowe.
Total time 61:32

All previously unissued


Excerpts from sleeve notes:

Lunge is a quartet born from the embers of the Butch Morris / London Skyscaper tour in 1997. Our embryonic outing was the CD BRACED AND FRAMED (ACTA 13) in 1999.

Now five years old, we have found our voice with STRONG LANGUAGE. Speaking as one, we share our group and individual inheritance of multiple musical styles and influences, ranging from quiet and sparse soundscapes to full throttle industrial onslaughts.

The music on this CD is a combination of a quintessentially 'Lunge' live set at the Bimhuis, Amsterdam, part of the 'dOek Festival #2', and two pieces from a studio session recorded at Gateway Studios, London, two years before. We hope you enjoy it.

LUNGE (2002)


Excerpts from reviews:

"The various tributaries of the London improvisation scene seem to be multiplying at a phenomenal rate. Old school spontaneous improv, large-scale collectives and compositional forms, extended techniques and electronics, and earnest intensity and wry bricolage are all tapped by a growing pool of musicians. Lunge is one of the strongest collectives to have emerged from this fertile meeting ground. On their second CD, violinist Phil Durrant, pianist Pat Thomas, drummer Mark Sanders, and trombone whiz Gail Brand join forces for a series of non-idiomatic improvisations that move from subtle, acoustic chamber-like delicacy to full-on electronic onslaught.

Brand's burred and blustering trombone and Sanders' stuttering propulsive clatter combine with the rumbling buzz and chirping squawks of Durrant and Thomas on electronics for improvisations that charge along with a sense of collective glee. It is the timbral contrasts that make this music stand out. Brand can grumble and flutter along and then toss out the most cleanly articulated, melodic jazz run imaginable. Durrant and Thomas stick mostly to electronics, giving the music a gritty edge. But when they switch to acoustic instruments, they can delve into the most detailed counterpoint, stretch out into creaking and groaning textural abstractions, or thrash along with mettlesome energy.

It is odd how, after three decades, this type of prickly, energetic, free improvisation has developed a tradition of its own. This may not be the radical statement that it once was, but these four prove that there is plenty of life left in these traditions."


"Amsterdam's Bimhuis is a great place to play and on June 1st 2002 it certainly brought out the best in these four fine visitors from London. Trombonist Gail Brand is all over her instrument (the virtuosity of George Lewis comes to mind on a number of occasions), just as at ease producing lovely high register melodies - yes, melodies - as she is digging around with her mute in the dirty low end. Phil Durrant took his violin and his Powerbook, and uses both to great effect, and while pianist Pat Thomas is more discreet on White Writeable Area, he's his usual ebullient self on No Filters. And drummer Mark Sanders must have eaten a lion before taking to the stage, as his drumming on the opening Planarchy is beyond belief. There's an extraordinary range of music on offer here, from the groove - yes, groove - of Planarchy to the spare, wiry textures that open Rough With The Smooth, and the inclusion of two tracks recorded back (back!) in 2000 shows exactly how far all four musicians have moved on since their first album BRACED & FRAMED (Acta 13, 1999)."


"STRONG LANGUAGE represents a serious step forward for Lunge. Instead of sounding like a smaller version of the Chris Burn Ensemble (as on their 1999 debut BRACED AND FRAMED), the unit displays a strong personality. At the heart of its originality resides the dichotomy between electronics and acoustics. Phil Durrant and Pat Thomas occasionally pick up their violin or sit at the piano (respectively), but for the most part they play a set-up of low-fi electronics. Answering them is the tandem formed by drummer Mark Sanders and trombonist Gail Brand, unusual instrumentation to say the least. The latter provides the most stable - or recognisable - voice. Her playing can hardly be described as conventional (her use of the mute is particularly creative), but the sounds she makes cannot be misattributed to someone else. In Mull It Over she even indulges into a melodic motif, to the listener's delight. Sanders is an amazing drummer, resourceful, creative and highly flexible - the latter point actually works against him recognition-wise, since his avoidance of trademark tricks have made him impossible to pigeonhole. Good for him (and us!). In these sessions he pushes further into subtlety and inspired intervention, switching from textures to rhythms with astounding à propos. Durrant and Thomas act as the wild cards, often redirecting an improvisation simply by deciding to switch from electronic to acoustic (or the other way around). The way Rothko gently develops into an avant-Third Stream theme will have you floored. Recommended."


"It's been a while since I've heard any piece of recorded Improv with the immense and immediate impact of the brilliantly-titled opener Planarchy. Here Brand sets out her aesthetic stall - she is a musician of great purpose and power, but also of great discipline. Aware of Rudd (the low-register smears) and Rutherford (bell and mouthpiece manipulation, but with only very sparing use of multiphonics) but equally aware not to fall into the laddism as so many notable European free trombonists have done. Brand's playing is one elongated punctum; it/she jumps out of the matrix/fabric and focuses your attention immediately.

But that is to belittle the contributions of Thomas, Durrant and Sanders, all of whom do more than keep up with Brand. Indeed, the duologues between Durrant's excited, pointillistic violin and electronic manipulations and Brand's purely acoustic trombone sometimes leave it difficult to decide who's playing what. And of course, it doesn't matter, because the collective structure is more important. There's a fantastic moment about nine minutes into Planarchy where Sanders almost imperceptibly, but entirely naturally, sets a drum 'n' bass tempo for a minute or so - this is fabulously exciting to listen to repeatedly - and then, with sublime architectural grace, the piece naturally subsides into an atrium of quiet concentration and close-up, meditative interaction. The sostenatos achieved here give the piece a hymnal aspect, and it concludes entirely logically.

Rough With The Smooth emphasises what a wonderful 'ballad' tone Brand achieves on her trombone - her high notes and tonality are very affecting indeed and remind me, strangely enough, of Jimmy Knepper's ballad playing. There's a moving slow section about six minutes into the piece, mournful and contemplative, before the temperature gradually gets turned up again; and at the end, the musicians do seem to 'lunge' at each other, or at least breathe with each other - dare I say that the music at this point takes on a distinctly carnal quality? Durrant signs off with a long, satisfied exhalation of electronic breath.

White Writeable Areas absorbs elements from both of these pieces for another fascinating journey. Brand here manages to be both affecting and decisive. Thomas' piano is patient, satisfied with its cautious chordality before later breaking free into joyful runs. At times, if not quite the 'full industrial onslaught' cited in the sleeve notes, this music can be exuberant and propulsive (drum 'n' bass meets Ambient), at other times hover beautifully on the edge of extinction.

The final four-minute rave-up No Filters is the wildest thing here, but crucially the musicians (unlike certain participants in the good ole days of FMP) never lose control or poise; you realise instinctively that they know exactly what they're doing. Thomas' samples and electronics are ceaselessly inventive behind Brand's full-throated attack; indeed, towards the end you sense the ghost of Radiohead's Kid A seeping through the background.

There are two further tracks from a studio session in December 2000 which are fine in themselves - in particular I repeatedly return to the poignant Rothko - but were clearly made before the quantum leap which enabled STRONG LANGUAGE to be alchemised. But this album needs to be heard and listened to repeatedly."


"Blistering second LP by British improv quartet. Improvised music doesn't always make for great records, but this lot have managed it. This is a mind-blowing helter-skelter of a record. The results lead to virtual hardcore jazz-punk (No Filters), quasi-drum 'n' bass meets ambient (Planarchy) and reflective pieces like Rothko which will tear your heart out. Highly recommended."


"Two tendencies loom large in contemporary improvised music: one towards subtlety and ambience with only rare explosions of furious, knotted dialogue, the other filled by general boisterousness and loud, surface interplay with occasional implosions of non-communication and quiet feeling. STRONG LANGUAGE bridges these two tendencies, and steers them both in the direction of satisfying, compelling music: the interactions are subtle and the voices are calm, but the action is fast and direct.

Mull it Over features Brand's trombone harkening with quizzical and magisterial roundness inside lovely, balanced group skittering. With Sanders' sharp rhythmic sense leading the way, the ensemble gets their groove on halfway through Planarchy and serves up the good funky stuff, with prime electronic fizzings on top. During Rough With The Smooth a chamber-like feel of decorum and solemnity shifts midway through, turning our ears from what comes out of the instruments to what is happening inside them. Suddenly we get the soundtrack of the proceedings from within the perspective of the musical objects at work - tearing, coaxing, rubbing, and pressuring. And yet the last two minutes are filled with rambunctious start and snatch, give and take improvising. The 10 minute saga ends gracefully on a mournful fading swipe and an ambiguous, unidentifiable click click.

Brand's trombone retains buoyancy without bombast throughout STRONG LANGUAGE, a feat worthy of special mention considering the prevalence of brash trombone improvising. She eschews the bellow-shot straight to the forehead that so many improvisers parade, displaying instead the round warmth of considered tones. Lunge's amicable scrambles bring new resolution to problems of improvising alchemy."


"I wound my way into Lunge's labyrinth via the thread of Mark Sanders' wonderful percussion. The lucid, instinctive support and direction he provides to the other three is remarkable: his insistence on rhythmic foundation (however malleable) and counterpoint is the binding element of the group.

Planarchy (is that a real word or an excellent, oxymoronic conflation?) is a 16 minute stop-motion journey through a day in the life of a sonic jungle. It begins with a riot of animal and insect noise, moves through passages of murmur and worry which are succeeded by the terror of huge, hoofed animals stampeding through a clearing close by, and eventually ends in moon-soaked exhaustion.

Rough With The Smooth continues the nocturnal atmosphere and explores its possibilities. Pat Thomas's sparse piano chords fall like amber depth charges in the silvery light, Gail Brand's trombone joins in singing mournful notes. Later she employs a variety of flutters, moans and stabs to navigate through thickets of scraped percussion.

White Writeable Area starts out foregrounding brushwork, electronic noise, a repetitive figure plucked out on violin; there's the flicker of cymbals and warm fibrous trombone acting as focal point. Much of STRONG LANGUAGE is quiet, intricately detailed, but No Filters charges headlong for its four minute duration full of roaring, bellowing and clanging.

The electronics employed by Durrant and Thomas add much to the sonic possibilities of the group without ever being self-consciously foregrounded. Listen to this recording with half as much concentration as the players do to each other and you'll reap ample reward."


"Lunge offers an unpredictable, challenging aural experience on its second release STRONG LANGUAGE. The compositions are freely improvised journeys that exploit the contours of both electronic and acoustic boundaries. Trombonist Gail Brand is the real star here, utilising a wide sound spectrum, through Cotton Club-era plunger tones, boisterous gurgling or neo-futuristic flights. Drummer Mark Sanders also adds fascinating textures throughout, counteracting various electronic notions fired at random by his bandmates with a continuous array of sounds."


"This British improv troupe has been together for five years, as the synergy shows on this effort, which features works recorded live in concert and in the studio. Not your average instrumentation mix for sure, as the quartet incorporates dabs of electronic effects with an organic sound.

On the opener Planarchy, Gail Brand's muted trombone attack rides atop percussionist Mark Sanders' tumbling tom rolls amid spurts of quaintly rendered EFX by Phil Durrant and Pat Thomas. Besides a few nicely designed rest stops, the band's fascinating implementations of counterbalancing motifs is abetted by a sense of controlled turbulence. Durrant uses his violin as a method for spewing micro-themes amid Thomas' delicately fabricated passages. Nonetheless, the artists tend to throw the listener for a loop via their uncanny penchants for eliciting unnatural sounds out of their instruments. On White Writeable Area, Sanders executes an avant-garde type tribal rhythm in support of Brand's employment of multiphonics and the group's somewhat eerie articulations. It all makes for a rather eclectic musical landscape. Recommended."


"Lunge's music can be dark and thickly layered, but they have an agreeably humorous side too. Brand's trombone-lines aren't especially powerful in themselves, but she ends up playing the 'voice' of the group and her restraint assists in establishing the group's democratic nature. At first hearing they're an unlikely alliance and there's a palpable sense of the group feeling its way. Strong Language is served by vivid recording (four live pieces from Amsterdam and two from a studio session). Sustained over 16 minutes Planarchy, which goes through the quartet's dynamic range with seamless and intense activity, is an exemplary showing of what they can do."

RICHARD COOK & BRIAN MORTON - The Penguin Guide to JAZZ RECORDINGS, 9th edition 2008


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