PHIL MINTON & ROGER TURNER

DRAINAGE

EMANEM 4211

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PHIL MINTON voice
ROGER TURNER percussion
 

A1 - seemingly - 3:58
A2 - reasonable - 4:20
A3 - somewhat - 2:05
A4 - temperate - 5:18
A5 - no way - 3:37
A6 - lie - 1:10
A7 - tendency - 1:39
A8 - all probability - 4:49
A9 - with respect - 2:30
A10 - most likely - 7:10
A11 - quite - 3:37
A12 - actual fact - 7:25
A13 - in a manner of - 2:36
A14 - obviously - 5:03

B1 - civil - 32:41

B2 - adequate - 22:58
B3 - moderate - 9:07
B4 - supposedly - 3:12
B5 - frankly - 2:32
B6 - as it were - 3:28
B7 - not true - 2:40

A1 - A14: Digital studio recordings by Steve Lowe
London - 2002 September 2 & 2003 February 28

B1: Digital concert recording by Paul Brogden
London (Conway Hall) - 2002 May 4

B2 - B7: Digital concert recording by Jean-Marc Foussat
Montreuil (Les Instants Chavirés) - 1998 May 19
Total time 135:13

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

The Minton-Turner duo have been performing in public for eons, but not many recordings of them have been published, so this double album is long overdue. Prior to this there was just AMMO from 1984 issued on Leo LP 116, and my 1993 recording issued as DADA DA on Leo CD 192.

The first of these two new CDs was recorded during two sessions at Gateway Studios. The pieces are generally short, and some just feature one or two items from Turner's collection of percussion. The extensive civil is the whole of the duo's performance at the 2002 freedom of the city festival. The rest of the second CD features virtually all of their 1998 appearance at Les Instants Chavirés near Paris.

Martin Davidson (2003)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"It had been ten years since this duo's previous offering, so DRAINAGE is certainly not superfluous, especially considering that Phil Minton and Roger Turner have been working together - as a duo or within larger groups - on a regular basis in the intervening decade. Their approach has not really changed, but that is only because both improvisers constantly find new techniques and discover fresh sounds. It is particularly true of Turner, a percussionist with an enormous amount of imagination. Disc one presents 56 minutes worth of fresh studio material in the form of 14 short pieces. The music is highly focused and condensed (which doesn't mean it is relentlessly dense, mind you), still profoundly dadaist but a bit more abstract. In many pieces Minton sticks to very specific areas of his sonic vocabulary, while Turner gets the most out of only one or two percussive objects. Disc two culls recordings from two concerts and here the duo becomes much more expansive, expressive and wild. The 23-minute adequate provides the craziest moments (which are the most satisfying to this reviewer). A stellar release, highly recommended."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2003

"Phil Minton and Roger Turner have been duetting for twenty or more years and recorded copiously with others; however, DRAINAGE is but their third recording, and initially appears, on the first of its two discs, to be a rather introverted affair. I much prefer the longer drainages that are allowed to more fully empty themselves on the second disc, two concert recordings from London and Montreuil, the second of which is a continuous 45-minute set broken into one 22-minute piece and several smaller ones. One of the best aspects to the Minton-Turner duo is the helter-skelter track switching they are able to get rolling. On a half-hour cut such as civil, one gets to experience a long train of these moodswings in review. Much of the time, they're churning so furiously, one can sit back and be ear-fully assaulted. Then, on moderate, they back off, more invitingly. The volume and activity level drops. One gets closer in to the microfilaments of sound. Minton starts wheezily whistling a noir-ish theme, and it ends just north of three minutes. Applause, then, supposedly erupts in more grunts and guttural urgings from Minton while Turner rattles his cages. On frankly, Minton sets the audience up with a grunt/howl/silence moment, the percussionist starts lightly swinging on brushes, a familiar tune whistles, then suddenly the vocalist belts out 'she loves the theatre, but never comes laaaate…' and so forth: It's a tribute to Frank Sinatra, naturally, and Turner sends it off with a nice metallic bang. Following that, as it were begins with a few words about Minton's just-deceased colleague Tom Cora, then plunges into empty-soul glissandi, and Minton allows his pipes to crack and split into inhuman chords. It segues right into not true, a ramping-up mountain of caterwauling, propelled by Turner's tom-toms and splashy cymbals.

Minton is a very percussive vocalist oft-times, spitting out glottals and plosives or short 'urks' in a rhythmic/timbral analogue of Turner's playing. Much as I'd like to report that his singing has something to do with his background as a trumpet player, I can't, because there's not anything at all traditionally trumpet-like about his delivery or vocabulary. Nor do any other vocalists immediately spring to mind; he's his own man, the odd duck without any close relatives in the songbird family tree. He's very matter-of-fact in delivery, neither grandiose nor humble, naturally letting his in-breaths intrude upon the sound-canvas; and if his vocal tenor has the capacity to swell to operatic proportions, one almost never hears it. He keeps it smallish and man-on-the-street-size, most of the time. One's tempted to say his art is character-based, because there are familiar voices that return from time to time, but they're never used in any dramatic-arc building, they just flash by, like schools of sardines in the stream-of-consciousness.

Turner, for his part, is polite most of the time and seems content to act as the canvas for Minton's psyche-glosso-yodellalia. Quite the changed man from the Tasmanian devil I witnessed blasting away behind Konk Pack in Berkeley a couple of years ago. On the first disc, Turner uses a narrow sonic vocabulary in each piece, neatly complementing in sound and texture what the vocalist is doing. There are no grand gestures as in Lovens, or buffoonery a la Bennink; Turner's restrained suspension of showmanship here is admirable, leading as it does to extremes of intimate shading-nearly evaporating, along with Minton, on most likely and all probability. The methods employed on DRAINAGE include counterpoint, conversation, and exquisite-corpse construction, where a random element which intrudes into an already established sound-area becomes the germ of the next section. That Turner and Minton can so easily shift gears among a range of strategies is the signifier of improvisational virtuosity. But, after twenty-odd years of producing quietly impolite and beautifully odd music, that should come as no surprise."

TOM DJLL - ONE FINAL NOTE 2004

"Voice and percussion, breath and banging: you couldn't reduce music to anything more basic. Yet the speed, variety and textural effects on these two CDs beggars description, creating wisps of litter, drainpools, florets, gem-caskets, dayglo-plastic figurines, smoke ghosts and traffic jams of sound more knotty and complex than anything in Electronica. Maybe DRAINAGE should be run as a soundtrack for a Brakhage movie: such an experience might explode cyber/laptop prejudice, and demonstrate how technically advanced Minton/Turner's 'acoustic regression' actually is.

Both born in southern England in the 1940s, Phil Minton and Roger Turner have spent lives in music. Minton sang in a church choir, then sang and played trumpet in ensembles led by Mike Westbrook and Trevor Watts. Turner's first gig was with saxophonist Chris Biscoe in 1966, and his percussive technique has been honed by working with vocalised players and creative vocalists, plus study of Chinese T'Sin and Indian tabla musics. His clicks and rubbings and rolls sound like mouth smacks, lip burbles and throat gargles. Minton uses every combination of tongue, lip, throat and cheek. He goes beyond even such astonishing mouth poets as Bob Cobbing and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: his musical training means that he can work consciously on his limits, while his performance poetics force us to confront extremes of emotional abjection. Phil Minton portrays the stumbling man who enters the portals of culture, belches, wheezes, spits phlegm, and then throws up in the new releases bin; Turner delights in this Beckettian trope, because it allows him to percuss on the very edge of acceptable logic. In turn, Minton mimics Turner's uncannily vocal rasps and pops: the duo's dialectic is a hall-of-mirrors, simultaneously comical and terrifying.

Minton and Turner conceive each phrase they unleash as a specific, kinky shape in the space-time of vibrating air, as determinate and highly-coloured as a motif in late Kandinsky. They bolt and bind these motifs together, constructing unlikely, surreal, scorch-breath monsters. This absolute clarity of musical intent - so different from the drones of post-AMM experimentalism or the bluster of revival-Ayler, both of which provide listeners with familiar niches - is achieved by a grasp of time and its subdivisions which is so steely and objective, the effect is chilling. Acknowledgement of time's ineluctable arrow chafes against the heat and personality of the pair's expression, paring away all sentimental tendencies. A historic release."

BEN WATSON - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2004

"Vocalist Phil Minton's long association with Mike Westbrook best represents his mainline jazz work, but the trumpeter and singer has also been working with uncompromising percussionist Roger Turner for more than two decades. In this setting, Minton usually sticks to vocalising. The duo's album rate has been roughly one per decade, but at least this third bout is a double set. The first was recorded over two sessions at London's Gateway Studios, and benefits from an intimately rounded sound, all the better for entering deeply into the fine detail of this duo's sensitive and responsive improvising.

Minton's often ludicrous gabbling can be therapeutic (particularly for him), but he does betray a tendency to slip too readily into his favourite Donald Duck vocalisation technique. Turner's vocabulary is much wider, often prompting the listener to home in on his perpetually changing timbre, volume, speed and texture. With his percussion so close-miked, he frequently limits himself to one or two items, exhausting a surprising number of possibilities in a comparatively short time. These studio pieces are kept deliberately short, varying their nature considerably. On reasonable, Turner scrapes bowl edges, while Minton sets up simultaneous drones in his mouth cavity. temperate has the quality of a traumatic breakfast, with Turner using the crockery-crashing potential of his full kit. Minton is mostly a clown, his old-man straining breaking out into a fruity gargle. Turner uses plopping water percussion on no way; Minton enacts his own radio playlet on most likely; Turner's bass booms are extremely low on quite and Minton is at his most frayed during actual fact. As this disc closes, Turner is deeply into motorcycle maintenance and Minton is operating at the extremes of his multiple voicing capacity.

The two live sets on the second disc appear less focused after the studio material, with more a more distant, open-room acoustic. civil is a complete 33 minute performance from 2002's freedom of the city festival in London. Its tension between sparse events develops a sense of suspended anticipation. Soon, Turner is accelerating, Minton matching him with strangulated abandon. Phil's sudden deranged howls draw a crashing response from Roger. The remaining six tracks make up most of the pair's 1998 appearance at Instants Chavirés, near Paris. adequate boasts tightly compressed motion, tiny clusters of activity; towards the end, Minton lightens up as he breaks into song, paying unexpected tribute to Sinatra on frankly."

MARTIN LONGLEY - THE WIRE 2003

"Except for the extremely dull-witted, improvisation exists in everyone's daily life. Just the idea of a conversation between friends, a casual chat even, contains evidence. In the case of these two English artistes it has been refined into a personal musical language. To describe this in traditional musical terms seems inadequate as the content is more complex than the simple idea of song form. It is instead related, in my imagination, to more worldly experiences, often connected to the Dadaists; of Hugo Ball and Kurt Schwitters, or perhaps Met Blanc's cartoon voices. Or radio shows' sound effects.

The studio recording consists of fourteen segments varying in length from 1:10 to 7:25, and feels continuous, a suite perhaps! They illustrate their communicative language clearly, with Minton's wordless dialogue ranging from susurrus to voluble; perhaps your creaking joints, a secretive fart, a satisfied burp. Whistling, parodying comic character, or a sound just outside the window. Turner's spectacular array of sound sources - struck metal, bowed styrofoam, rubbed, scraped and shaken bags of tricks - coupled with his finely attuned imagination consolidates them, completes this powerful occasion.

Performed before an appreciative audience, the live recordings give the sense that the previous CD was an illustration, a series of miniatures that are now developed into extended works. The longest, from Conway Hall in London, is a delicate wordless story escalating to a dramatic ending. The second, and earliest performance from Montreuil in France, is more fragmented, containing moments of Dadaistic attitudes, a certain amount of ranting and raving, and even a trace of scat singing. Their Englishness can be readily detected in these performances, especially humour. "

BILL SMITH - CODA 2004

"Roger's array of percussion and found objects is exploited to the very bone, his timbral research and manual dexterity fills the two discs without having our ears replete, tenaciously gripping a strong hold over the unpredictability of Minton's great expressiveness. Phil is incredible as never before, hardly comparable to anyone I can think about. A pot-pourri of trombone, Tuvan singing, alley cats meowing and battling each other, a couple having an argument screaming from one room to another, lung illness used as a sound source, a harmonizer/pitch transposer having its last moments before the battery fails."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2003

"This crazed British duo of extreme vocal improv (Phil) and ever-inventive percussive weirdness (Roger) have been at it for quite a long time (over 20 years), although they only have two previous recordings. Phil Minton is one of most eccentric and charming of all vocalists and has had a long and distinguished career working with Mike Westbrook, Lindsey Cooper, David Moss and Tom Cora (Roof & 4 Walls). Roger Turner is an equally gifted and rambunctious drummer/percussion wiz who has also worked in many different situations, last seen/heard in Konk Pack with Tim Hodgkinson.

The first disc is studio dates and all the pieces are relatively short. Sometimes quiet and cautious and sometimes explosive. Phil consistently reaches deep into his bag of tricks (or voices) and pulls a wide and often hilarious bunch of odd characters to the surface. Cartoon voices, child-like goofiness, twisted vocal sounds too difficult to describe, yet always endearing in a ridiculous sort of way. Roger also focuses on a one piece of percussion at a time, rubbing, bending, bowing, tapping - broken cymbals and assorted objects. It is often impossible to tell who is doing what, but that is part of enjoyment of just jumping in and going along for the ride. The second disc is the live one and is equally well recorded with a bit a room ambiance surrounding the duo. There is a sublime balancing act going on here as both musicians weave their sounds around one another. The opening half hour plus piece, civil has an ongoing dialogue which twists and turns as both players combine forces/talents into an intricate force. There is more than enough humour and invention here to make this entire long double CD a consistently intriguing journey."

DOWNTOWN MUSIC GALLERY 2004

"This fascinating series of exchanges between voice artist Phil Minton and percussionist Roger Turner hovers between the sensual and the scary. Minton's guttural style takes in virtually every aspect of the vocal range through a series of squeaks, gargles, slurpings, screeches and strangulated throat exercises that summon up vast sound pictures which twist and turn as the piece develops. These sounds are further coloured and enriched by Turner's equally complex and inventive percussion attack where drums, cymbals and found objects are pushed to their limits in his seemingly inexhaustible search for the perfect beat to accompany Minton's abstract screams and muted gurglings. Recorded live in concert (in London and Paris) and in the studio, the two discs that make up this astonishing set offers a rare chance to hear two master British improvisers at the peak of their powers in both short and extended pieces. A tough listen for some, perhaps, but a truly rewarding experience for the adventurous who long to hear something completely different."

EDWIN POUNCEY - JAZZWISE 2004

"On this release the longstanding duo can access places so remote, so singular that they could only emerge from Musical partnerships decades old. The music won't surprise any longtime observers of the London scene, ranging as it does from nearly silent performances that sound like the patter of wings, to expansive and splattery perambulations. Throughout the first disc (a studio date), they are able to interact with sparseness and attention to minute detail - overall it's intriguing and quite satisfying. Many of Minton's responses to Turner's wondrously versatile and subtle percussion have him exploring elongated whistle tones and small cracking noises. The live tracks which make up the second disc are more wide-ranging and, owing to the acoustics of the rooms, a bit more frenetic. Sprawling all over the place as they do, there are highs and lows; but you should by no means miss Turner's thrashing against Minton's torch song impressionism on moderate (although later in the piece there is, honesty compels me to point out, a Porky Pig moment). The live disc concludes with several brief coda tracks, two of which are tributes (as it were a lovely farewell to Tom Cora, frankly a hilarious hats-off to the Chairman of the Board)."

JASON BIVENS - CADENCE 2004

 

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