Googling around for the group name I came across Silver Wheaton Corporation, Sisters of the Living World, Stefano Lubiana Wines, Securities Litigation Watch (rather appropriate perhaps for these troubled times), Shift Left Word, Second Language Writing, and even, according to urbandictionary.com, "slw: some1 ppl f*ck randomly on the street", but in fact the name is short for Sound Like Water. This refers to a concert originally scheduled to take place in a disaffected swimming pool at the end of a brief residence in Brussels in late 2006, which included several studio sessions and a live performance in which the audience was surrounded by - immersed in might be more appropriate - the music of Burkhard Beins (percussion, objects), Lucio Capece (soprano sax, bass clarinet and preparations), Rhodri Davies (harp, electroacoustic devices), and Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board). This uninterrupted 56-minute span of music should be played loud, but even at high volume it takes a while to get into; one senses the musicians too are sounding each other out for most of the first quarter of an hour. Things really get cooking about halfway through, with some ominous low end rumbles and thuds (Davies? Nakamura?) that send Beins into pulse mode, scraping stones and polystyrene around his drumheads, and tease out some gritty multiphonics from Capece's bass clarinet, building to a genuine climax (yes! complete with cymbal crashes!) five or so minutes later. Eventually the music retreats into more typically inscrutable EAI territory - pale eBowed sine tones lightly dusted with static drizzle, huffs, puffs, ticks and clicks - but it remains somehow scarred by the memory of the earlier explosion, like a conversation between four friends all studiously avoiding the elephant in the room. Eventually it picks up again five minutes or so before the end, coalescing around an obstinate mid-register drone (I think Davies is responsible for this one, but Nakamura's work in recent times has been so wide-ranging and unpredictable, I wouldn't be surprised if it was him), but fades out before it gets into any more trouble.
Though each of the four musicians has been loosely associated with so-called reductionism - though Capece freely admits he doesn't know "what reductionism is or means" - what's particularly exciting about this release is how full and rich the music is. "We didn't want the music to be identified with silence or quietness," he writes, "but with the organization of the material. The volume was quite high, though I wouldn't say it was extremely high or that the music could be identified with 'noise' as a genre or attitude." The activity level is high too, and it's fascinating to follow individual trains of thought as they veer into sidings or disappear into tunnels along the way. Capece describes the group's approach as one of "relating sounds in a simultaneous and immediately successive way without developing ideas. Ending and re-developing. The idea was to use different material but as one idea, keeping the tension." As descriptions go, that strikes me as being pretty close to the "in the moment" aesthetic associated with an earlier generation of improvisers. Indeed, those who prefer their improv more "old school" might be pleasantly surprised by SLW. It's convincing proof that EAI has matured enough to acknowledge the value of the music it originally sought to distance itself from. What the world needs now, I'm told, is more liquidity - Sound Like Water is my idea of a liquid asset.
- Dan Warburton, ParisTransatlantic -

(...) Rehearsal plus a myriad prior encounters between the various members contribute to the exquisite balance, scrupulous pacing, and rigorous cohesion that they achieve. While they work within a narrow dynamic range, the flux of filament-thin metallic and electronic textures is marked by quick mutation and considerable discontinuity; this rich piece of long-tone music will never be mistaken for drone.
- Bill Meyer, The Wire -

The duo is, generally speaking, the strongest combo for minimal improv: an intimate conversation rather than a monologue, but with enough space for the discussion to move forward without too many tangents or individuals pushing a point. There are also enough exceptions (AMM, Polwechsel, poire_z) to perhaps disprove the rule, but either way, when a new, larger grouping comes together and seems to gel immediately, the results can be quietly exciting.
Saxophonist/clarinetist Lucio Capece and no-input mixing board player Toshimaru Nakamura follow their previous formed.records release IJ to move from the quintessential duo to a highly intuitive quartet, adding Burkhard Beins on percussion and Rhodri Davies on harp. SLW was actually recorded the day before IJ, although the pair traveled from Brussels to Amsterdam to record the second session. The resulting album - a single track of close to an hour - is a slow whirlwind of sounds and textures, varying wildly in volume and relative tempos. But what stands out most here is how rarely the individual voices leap forward, as if the sum were less than the parts. Occasionally a scraped cymbal or fluttered reed rises to the fore, but more often the sounds are submerged and melded, roaming or throbbing, in a fascinating meld.
- Kurt Gottschalk, The Squid's Ear -

Finally, I've been late in getting around to SLW, a single, hour-long improvisation courtesy of Davies (harp, electroacoustic devices), Burkhard Beins (percussion and objects), Lucio Capece (soprano sax, bass clarinet, and preparations), and Toshimaru Nakamura (nimb). Based on this lineup, I expected to hear music with a lot of grainy detail, some high-pitched tectonic shapes, and a resistance to predictable improvisational dynamics in favor of long-form laminations. Well, I suppose on the general level these expectations were confirmed. But the disparate approaches and idiosyncratic personalities of this quartet yield more than this by far. It's a very patient improvisation, lingering in its initial phase on a flinty metallic note that spools out to reveal its multiplicity, with only the occasional shadow of the bass register emerging. Over time, though, some unexpected birdsong emerges. Its chirps and oscillations come to sound like summer cicadas, but with the sound of knives sharpened also filling the air. Things dissipate, revealing one of the lower strata, a thick bed atop which Capece spools grainy lines, while Davies gives the occasional tight-wound pluck. The lengthy middle sections of the piece seem to shift into a different idiom altogether: they sound to me like faint echoes of some other recording, as if from electric wires strung high overhead or from very distant trains. The last phase of the piece lulls you in with some insectoid ramblings and faint whirrs, but there's nothing bucolic about the music since it's underpinned by ominous rumbles that keep things edgy and unsettled. No surprise, then, that there follows an angry awakening of sound, an eruption that looses feedback blare, sustained notes, and whorls of percussion that eventually coalesce in a lovely stacking of tones that twist and pull apart to create close-grouped intervals. The piece closes by seemingly reverse its course in rapid time, with a brief meditation on water and wood breaking into intense, fracturing birdsong that wends its way into a sizzling drill-bit noise from Nakamura. It's a really interesting and rich recording that's been in my listening pile for months. Anyone who's slept on this one will be happy they took the time to track it down.
- Jason Bivins, Bagatellen -

The second release is by the instant quartet of Burkhard Beins (percussion, objects), Lucio Capece (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, preparations), Rhodri Davies (harp, electro-acoustic devices) and Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board). Together they played on October 16th 2006 in Brussels and this almost hour long piece is the result. It's also the meeting of highly talented players in this field. Beins plays, I think, in the most traditional way, with occasional loud bangs on his kit - perhaps that's the only element we can truly recognize. The other instruments play sounds that are best described as a combination of feedback, drones and sine waves. The instrument as object is extremely important here, and also how it resonates when amplified. Each of the players has a wide array of techniques to approach this, ranging from sustained sounds, short, looped sound, with or without curves, silence, loud: this bumps all over the place to maintain a vivid and imaginative piece of music. Sometimes creepy soft, sometimes ear-shattering loud, but always engaging. A fine work by key players of modern improvisation.
- Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly -

Für SLW hat sich mit BEINS - CAPECE - DAVIES - NAKAMURA eine Allstarformation des Dröhnminimalismus oder Reduktionismus, oder wie immer man das Surfen auf Mikrowellen nennen will, zusammengetan. Burkhard Beins (Selected percussion, Objects) als Vertreter von 'Berliner Luft', der argentinische Neuberliner Lucio Capece (Soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, Preparations), dazu Beins Partner in The Sealed Knot, der Waliser Rhodri Davies (Harp, electro acoustic devices), & Onkyomeister Toshimaru Nakamura (No-input mixing board) streifen hier durch das dröhnende, sirrende, schäbige Flachland, das sie selber ausbreiten, Flora & Fauna all inclusive. Finessenreich wird jedes Grau in Grau als Nuance präpariert, da fiept es, dort zirpt es, Flöhe husten, Fische singen ihren Nachtgesang, das Gras wispert, der Wind heult 'Mary had a little lamb, it was very very very little, ging einer Küchenschabe kaum bis ans Knie.' Die federleichte Viererbande tickelt und bitzelt, giekst und ab und zu twangt einer sogar, man flattert und tuckert und Capece portioniert Luft mit spitzen Lippen in 5 g-Päckchen. Nach einer halben Stunde hat sich allerhand zusammengebraut, das so flach und mini garnicht ist. Die Verdichtungskurve ist längst ein anschwellender Spannungsbogen, ein zunehmendes Fluten, das bei Minute 35 überquillt. Die Bassklarinette schnarrt, Beins pingt mit nachhallenden Metallscheiben. Das Soprano schrillt schillernd, Sinuswellen stechen, Beins lässt die Roulettekugel rotieren, es wird geknispelt und geschabt. Die Vier wissen schon ganz genau, was sie da tun & lassen. Die 50. Min. setzt einen noch einmal auf ein brummiges Hochplateau, bis SLW mit leisem Pfeifton sanft sich ganz in Luft auflöst.
- Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy -

SLW epitomizes the "EAI super group", consisting in fact of Burkhard Beins (selected percussion, objects), Lucio Capece (soprano sax, bass clarinet, preparations), Rhodri Davies (harp, electro acoustic devices) and Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board). No likelihood of failure, one would say, with names like these and indeed the self-titled CD delivers what promised on paper. Structural intelligibility and rational advancement of the processes are among the qualities of the music expressed by this quartet. The timbral disposition tends to the "harshly high" register for the large part of the improvisations, yet that sensation of aural flagellation typifying some of the releases in this field is not in attendance. Each of the participants looks severely committed to their roles, the ensuing idea that of four unrelated instrumental lives being scrutinized along parallel courses, each independent from the other three, all still functional to a collective questioning of quietness - except for a brief noisier segment - in different, often surprising ways. A good example of how to go straight to the core essence of a sonic source without actually eviscerating its strictly acoustic content, and in this case the sum of the parts almost exceeds the substance of the single features. (...)
- Massimo Ricci, Temporary Fault -

From Germany, Argentina, Wales, and Japan, an international super group no less! Just reading the participants' names raises one's hopes about this music and sets the pulse racing. Although this foursome has not recorded together before, through various collaborations too complex to detail here (including Elektro-Akoestisch Ensemble, The Sealed Knot, Q-O2, and the 2008 release on Formed Records; they are like a complex overlapping Venn Diagram) the participants have enough common history to ensure that they will be using a mutually understood musical vocabulary that draws on eai, drones, and the importance of restraint and silence. It is that mutual understanding that makes this album mouth-watering.
Recorded live in Les Halles, Brussels in October 2006, this is one continuous piece lasting fifty six minutes. At the recording, the audience sat in the centre surrounded by speakers. Apparently, the whole space was meant to be considered a swimming pool (the gig was originally intended to be held in a unused pool). The title SLW stands for "sound like water". This title helps put the recording in context, because it often does sound like water - falling, flowing, lapping, gushing, pouring...
Unsurprisingly, given the prevalence of electronics, the piece opens with a high frequency electronic drone, which is practically the signature sound of eai and of Toshimaru Nakimura's no-input mixing board. Gradually, that is overlaid with other sounds, many electronic, to produce a multi-layered collage. Rhodri Davies' harp is linked to electro acoustic devices and used as a sound source for a range of complex sounds. Lucio Capece's reed contributions are occasionally audible as the upper layer, although they sometimes sound as if they have struggled to the surface; when below the surface, they often provide a percussive effect that effectively combines with Burkhard Beins percussion, giving the piece an underlying pulse. Despite the water motif throughout the piece, there are prolonged passages of sustained tones that act as interludes and add drama and tension. As originally intended, this is music designed to totally immerse the listener, music that relies upon listeners to surrender to it and immerse themselves. It is richly rewarding and repays repeated listening.
- John Eyles, All About Jazz -

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