Improvizone

First Improvizone CD now available

Andrew Booker 2007-03-17 20:51:10

We may not want your money at the gigs, but here at Improvizone Virtual we have no issues with divesting you of a small number of pounds sterling in return for the odd choice commodity from the Improvizone shelves. That is why the Improvizone shop is now open, featuring on the catalogue works by any such contributing or associated personages that have reasonably suitable stock to shift. If I could put that any more pompously I would.

The shop will also feature a growing range of special Improvizone products. The first of these is a CD by regulars Michael Bearpark and Andrew Booker (me) with the title join the dot, and is available now. There is a sparse and scattered background to this album, which, since you have all evening, I will draw together in whatever rambling detail I can recollect.

Although Mike and I found ourselves in intersecting circles of acquaintance some years ago, we didn't play together until 2004 in the Tim Bowness Band, a group that did three six-hour rehearsals in Norwich in the autumn, before playing their first gig at The Spitz in London on 08 November 2004. Normally in bands you find an alliance forming between the drummer and the bassist. In different ways, they do similar jobs. I myself have no special allegiance to any one instrumentalist over than another, and will strike up impromptu twists and turns in the song arrangement with anyone who happens to be paying attention. In the Tim Bowness band, this was usually Mike. He's an unusal guitarist. He seems to avoid all routine techniques, and plays largely entirely by ear. In other words, he's a terrific improviser. He also loops without using looping boxes. Good for drummers.

I recently started playing in another group with Mike, the Aimless Mules, a kind of feelgood goth band with occasional ska and americana tendencies. Probably that's not how any of the others would describe it. Whatever, it really works, and the recorded rehearsals have even yielded a couple gems for the Improvizone download section.

But my main band throughout the period between the currently stationary Pulse Engine, and the currently bubbling Improvizone, was HiD, which I quit on 02 May 2006. I haven't said much about my departure, and will spare you the details now too, except to say that I took two separate hints that I could do better elsewhere. One was a duo recording session on 21 October 2005, with Scott Davitt on guitar. To date, all of the Improvizone downloads featuring Scott are from that session. The other was a two-hour evening session with Mike on Friday 14 April 2006, from which join the dot is taken.

I was having a pretty tough time maintaining the faith in HiD. I had spent that Friday afternoon with its celebrity member, and it had not gone well. We were supposed to be going to America a fortnight later, and it was probably going to be shit. At the end of the session, I collapsed the gear, excused myself from the usual post-pint and drove straight to Pulse Studios in Walthamstow to set up a second time. Mike arrived and quickly positioned an array of wacky devices on the floor in a straight line spanning nearly five feet. He then plugged into one of the house Marshall combos and I took only a DI for recording. I kick myself even now that I didn't mic up the speaker as well. Hours compensating for it later, I tell you.

The first track on the CD is exactly how we started playing, minus the first few seconds, and it still gives me a warm glow when I hear it. We didn't need to talk much for the next couple of hours, we just played and played, changing delay times, keys and sounds. Each idea different from the last, all of them usable. An edited version of every single piece from that session is either on the CD or on the Improvizone downloads page. Except for one, which Mike suggested we get TB to sing on. Haven't asked TB yet. There is nothing on the CD that we didn't pluck or hit that evening. I edited, re-patched MIDI sounds here and there, put in a few level ramps or modulation sweeps that I couldn't have done while I was playing, but you're listening to the sound of a live guitar and electronic drums duo, and my guess is you wouldn't have known if I hadn't said so. And if you don't believe me, in some ways I'm happier. I did most of the editing and mixing in the uninterrupted peace and quiet of room 126 of the Sheraton Great Valley Hotel, Frazer, PA 19355, USA. I was supposed to there for an HiD gig, but ended up travelling by myself. When I finally auditioned the whole album right through, I sensed I had struck precious metal.

One thing I like about this album is that we didn't make it deliberately. It was simply a session with an unusually high yield. Another is that, if I was beginning to doubt the mileage in the guitar and e-drums duo concept by that time, this session poured a whole lot more fuel back in the tank. Together with the Scott session six months earlier, it confirmed for me that the e-drums duos had a future after all, and that I should try and do them live. And that is where Improvizone came from.

Above all, I love this CD as a thing to listen to. I haven't always been so comfortable with my recordings in the past, but I'm really fond of this. It has the old-fashioned analog synth sounds in the background that summon streetlights, industrial estates, motorways... It has Mike's guitar, sounding less and less like a guitar and more like some... ambient... lead instrument thing. It's dark, bleak and dirty at times, but warm and gently uplifting at others. It reminds me of stuff I used to like, without sounding anything like it.

Hope you enjoy it!

How the first gig went << | >> 2nd gig: Wed 28 Mar 2007 at Imbibe, SE1