The Wire

Few improvisors have understood Tony Oxley's discovery of timbral serialism inside Elvin Jones's subdivided beats, but the musicians behind Norway's Sofa label, Ivar Grydeland on guitar and Ingar Zach on percussion, are blessed with such an understanding. This approach - utterly distinct from the swelling detail of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble or the Waiting For Godot endlessness of AMM - opens up time, packing in more changes per second than seems musically impossible. Philipp Wachsmann, on violin and electronics, and Charlotte Hug, on viola and electronics, are a canny choice for a quartet, since their bowed instruments imply a horizontal continuity far removed from the pushy split-splat which Zach and Grydeland excel at. Choice of engineers (Toby Robinson and Lee Bowman) and studio (London's Moat Studio) is likewise canny, since Robinson's Moat operation is emerging as the best for improvisors.
Wazahugy doesn't give a stereo illusion of four musicians in real space, but the way it renders each instrument so intoxicatingly present makes for a thrilling listen, even if one objects to certain musical decisions. Hug's repeated riff 13 minutes into the opener puts a brake on the collective energy, and occasionally Wachsmann's Viennese melancholy sounds mannered. There's also an unlisted fore minute encore where a new energy sweeps the musicians along.
No Spaghetti Edition deliberately jettison the poise of pure Grydeland/Zach projects, being an opportunity to entertain a host of other musicians. For Pasta Variations, the guests at Tou Bryggeri, Stavanger and Blå, Oslo were; Phil Minton(voice), Pat Thomas(keyboard), Håkon Kornstad(tenor), Frode Haltli(accordion) and Tonny Kluften(bass, though Kluften is a Sofa regular too). There's some crunchy, delirious stuff, along with less vertiginous passages (eg eight minutes into «PVE», as the accordion feebly evokes European street musics). Phil Minton is his hair-raising self, cutting through the septet clutter to achieve remarkable moments.

Ben Watson