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Monday, 21 November 2011

sok040 GIMLET EYED MARINERS - Dark Secret Love


Gimlet-Eyed Mariners hail from Wiveliscombe, Somerset. The duo was conceived in early 2009, but various other projects involving its members delayed its birth until the late summer of that year, when the first official recorded session, Leopard Slugs, was cut. This session produced “In the Howling Storm” and the title track of their release, Dark Secret Love, on The Slightly Off Kilter Label.

The band was formed to create the kind of music and soundscapes that its members wanted to hear, but seldom could. The Mariners’ music can be categorised as electro-acoustic, acousmatic total-Improv, concerned primarily with colour, texture and dynamics, spontaneous interaction, and the organic, unpredictable evolution of each performance. Their improvisations start from scratch: the players never rehearse in the sense of working on a piece until it evolves into something “presentable”. In the studio they reject editing, over-dubbing and re-mixing: if a performance is not working, it will be abandoned, and the duo will move on to a new improvisation. Accidents are part of the adventure: they do not consider this approach as foisting unfinished “product” on the audience, but as an invitation to their listeners to join them on a journey of discovery.

An improvisation by the duo may incorporate hypnotic, densely-textured, multi-layered constructs, evanescent drifts of colour and insubstantial texture, mysterious and ambiguous sonorities, eruptions of viscera-endangering industrial noise, compulsive dance beats evoking music from the remotest reaches of the globe, or, often, all of these simultaneously.

Although they arrived at it from somewhat different directions, the two Mariners share a vision, and have a common admiration for musique concrete & electronic music pioneers like Pierre Schaeffer, Luc Ferrari, Pierre Henry, Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and the great Tonmeister, Stockhausen.

Michael Fairfax is a sculptor and designer who studied under the tutelage of his grandfather, Ernest Berk, a pioneer of musique concrete, cutting and splicing recorded tape, toying with oscillators and generally playing around with sound. During his career as a public artist he created a number of sound-works using computer technology, before embarking on adventures in music in its own right, firstly with Tapes+Ashes and now with Gimlet-Eyed Mariners. The exploitation of sound as an improvised unit gives him the space and expansiveness that is the antithesis of public art.

Barry Witherden was also a member of Tapes+Ashes, and began tinkering with low-tech, tape-based collages when, in his late teens, he discovered Schaeffer and Henri. He is a freelance music journalist currently writing for The Wire, Jazz Journal and BBC Music, and has been a regular contributor to Jazz Review, The Gramophone and Classic CD. His writing has also been included in The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music, The Rough Guide to Classical Music and The Guinness Who’s Who of Jazz. His inspirations include Morton Feldman, the early process/systems pieces of Steve Reich and the work of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

© Barry Witherden, July 2011

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