Gig nine

Andrew Booker 2007-11-02 01:17:45

I would have written this up the day after the gig, but a certain vegetable preparation ritual took precedence over all other activities on that date, as it does every year.

Their names are... no, I'm joking, I'm not that sad. Their innards were converted to soup, chutney and pie. The soup was a bit watery but otherwise OK, the chutney was... go and boil vinegar in your house for two hours and you'll get the idea... but the pie was fab. The blog's dollops. Rather like a few fine moments from the gig at the Plough the day before, 30 October 2007. Check out Os's Flickr pictures.

Yes, Os was playing. Those ones with all four of us at the end of the set were taken by Nick Cottam, who came to exhaust the pub's supply of orange juice. It obviously tastes better at the Plough than it does anywhere in Maldon, Essex. Must be the locally sourced oranges. Better still with the accompaniment of a varied set of slightly mysterious and eerily beautiful ambient music provided by this month's trio of Mike Bearpark with his ambient guitar and crescent of discreet effects pedals, Os with his tableful of laptopiary and audio interfaces, and new addition Jim Lampi, on his twelve-string... floorboard. Emmett Chapman is probably sending a parcel of his own chutney as we speak. Oh no, hang on, it's not chutney...

I spent most of the evening playing to a click, and this was reasonably successful. I'm getting better at not noticing it, and settling into a groove behind which the click disappears for most of the time. It means occasionally you have to quieten down to check synchrony is still good.

Clicks are not without their problems for improvising though. The most important thing is to be able to hear the rest of the band. For this one I had a nice mix of myself, Mike and Os. Jim was going through his own amps, which I was recording but not monitoring, so I couldn't hear him as well. But I could hear enough to tell that he was locking in and having a bit of fun. I'll catch the details when I listen back to the whole thing.

I need to make sure I record the Lampster's direct signal as well as his effected path next time. This is because he's playing bass parts, and it's good to have some control over the dry signal for a mix, even when the whole thing sounded great live. Another enhancement for next time is to improve on how we introduce the clicks. How it works now is that I suggest the tempo by clicking my fingers, Os taps it into Ableton and sets it going, and the piece begins. This is fine until the others start playing to my finger snaps. By the time it comes in, they are completely out with the Ableton click, that only I can hear.

Another problem with clicks in improvising becomes apparent when we're playing relatively quietly. I especially asked Os for a click sound that was reasonably drum-like. I reckon those are easier to play to than stick cracks or a cowbell, and also I thought that if, for whatever supernatural reason, it accidentally crept into someone's audio signal, it wouldn't sound out of place in a mix. I think I might have made a mistake with that. Although the drum-like click was easy to play to, it sounded a bit too much like it belonged in the music. In some of the quiet bits, I didn't play much or hold down a definitive groove, because I was already hearing one, and thinking it was part of the whole sound.

The reason for using a click at all was that we wanted to do much more looping than at previous Improvizones. As such, I would have expected the gig to be much more of an ambient-with-drums thing than the others, which have featured more raw playing. In fact, despite the looping backdrop, this was a fluid couple of hours of invention rather than a smoother more planar ambient set.

So far I've only checked out a few snippets, but it really is a completely different experience listening back to this stuff from playing it. I remember a lot of what I was doing, and very little of what anyone else was up to. It's particularly nice to listen back to what Os was doing with some of the more textural sounds. At least I think it was Os. He's listened back to his own recordings, and initially he wasn't sure either. You've really got to solo out the parts to tell who's doing what. This is good. It was clearly all gelling rather than curdling.

In a couple of weeks we'll be setting up downstairs at Ember in Farringdon. Before then, I'm going to go down there with a tape measure and see how much room we've got. The current lineup is four, and it may have to stay that way unless we can stack seated players vertically. Cue rudeboy sub-bass from Os, or Mike through his octave divider. Which I think, to give it its standardised industry nomenclature, is the big red one with the pedal.

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