Featuring Phil Gibbs on guitar, Neil Metcalfe on flute, Adrian Northover on soprano & alto saxes and Marcello Magliocchi on drums.
Phil Gibbs has long been my favorite living UK improvising guitarist, thanks to the dozens of discs he’s done with longtime collaborator Paul Dunmall. Over the past few years, Mr. Gibbs has stepped out on his own appearing on a few discs in solo and with a couple of
group improv situations. On this disc Mr. Gibbs works with another longtime Dunmall collaborator, flutist Neil Mefcalfe.
The other two members of this quartet can be found working with the Remote Viewers (Northover) and the Runcible Quintet (both men).
The first things I noticed here is the way that Mr. Gibbs taps on his guitar, softly but with immense speed.
The soprano sax and flute swirl organically around him, delicately at first, with percussion added,
the quartet take out soaring together tight yet free and consistently connected.
Things soon hit boiling point as the quartet erupts in waves and then calm down to a more cerebral space.
There is no actual leader here since all four members are integral to the group sound.
There is some extraordinary group improv going on here, tight, intense and well-integrated.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG



Toujours sur FMR, la suite de la collaboration du percussionniste  « Pugliese Marcello Magliocchi avec le saxophoniste Adrian Northover et le flûtiste Neil Metcalfe, abonnés depuis quelques années avec le Runcible Quintet en compagnie du contrebassiste John Edwards et du guitariste Daniel Thompson (CD’s FMR Five et Four). Le guitariste Phil Gibbs travaille depuis deux décennies avec Paul Dunmall et Paul Rogers, tout comme Neil Metcalfe. Tout cela pour situer le niveau musical dans lequel s’ébatent the Visitors. Neil Metcalfe joue précisément d’une flûte baroque en bois noir "tardive" et en tire des sons truffés d’altérations microtonales. En effet, avec son souffle, il altère les notes avec précision, un peu comme certains flûtistes orientaux. Rien d’étonnant, au Red Rose ou ailleurs, de voir Neil et feu Lol Coxhill partager des pint de ale et deviser musique. Cette prédilection est partagée par Adrian Northover que ce soit au sax soprano et à l’alto, lui-même travaillant régulièrement avec des musiciens indiens (Inde du Nord – Musiques de Raga). Metcalfe est celui des quatre qui joue « mélodique » par moments. Le jeu subtil et pulsatoire (légèrement électrifié) de Phil Gibbs (lequel est un inconditionnel de Metcalfe) convient parfaitement à l’affaire par ses conceptions post-modales sophistiquées et ses tuilages de voicings… Percussionniste forcé de voyager avec peu de moyens, Marcello Magliocchi qui semble être devenu le percussionniste attitré de Northover (si ce n’est pas le contraire), joue systématiquement avec une mini-batterie très réduite et quelques métaux intrigants (cymbale « rectangulaire » etc…). Sa conception complètement « libre » est basée sur la dynamique et une multiplicité de frappes, grattements, rebondissements, tintements très variés dont il accélère ou ralentit le débit avec une réelle maîtrise. Un frère à Paul Lovens ou Roger Turner. Un voisinage avec Tony Oxley … La grande qualité de ce groupe est la lisibilité précise du jeu des quatre musiciens en précisant que Adrian et Neil se plaisent à brouiller les pistes tant leurs jeux se complètent, focalisés sur les micro-tons. Le cheminement complexe du groupe visite des paysages variés, transforme les perspectives, passant du duo au trio ou au quartet insensiblement avec un sens spontané et réussi des enchaînements… Une espèce d'octopode insaisissable.

C’est une musique éminemment collective qui donne une image/ référence moins précise de chaque individualité que si cell-ci jouait en duo avec un autre instrument offrant un contraste net. Si par exemple, vous voudriez approfondir votre connaissance relativement à Neil Metcalfe, il y a cet album Incus S& M avec le génial guitariste Roger Smith ou le trio de Neil avec le bassiste Nick Stephens et le batteur Tony Marsh (Breaking Silence Loose Torque). Gibbs a un nombre incalculable d’albums avec Dunmall, vous avez l’embarras du choix. Quant au percussionniste Marcello Magliocchi, son jeu particulier est documenté avec toutes ses nuances dans Otto Sette Sei (improvising beings) avec le violoniste Matthias Boss et votre serviteur, J-M VS à la voix et le discret bassiste Roberto Del Piano. Musiciens à suivre et même à traquer.


As album releases in this space start to heat up again, and with several items suddenly in the pipeline, I want to note The Visitors by a quartet of Phil Gibbs (guitar), Neil Metcalfe (flute), Adrian Northover (soprano & alto sax) & Marcello Magliocchi (drums): There are two obvious comparisons for The Visitors, i.e. two recent albums on which three of the four members play in a different improvising quartet, Runcible Four & Sezu. The former is a quartet for its first half hour, and in that case, it's with Daniel Thompson on guitar, rather than Gibbs. And the latter (discussed here in November 2018) included Maresuke Okamoto on cello (& voice) rather than Metcalfe: Despite that the instrumentation is different, and that it even includes a long track featuring vocals, in some ways Sezu is the more similar in its varying combos & more frequent use of reduced forces. And then Runcible Four, with nominally the same instrumentation, highlights the shift that occurs with Gibbs — who is actually listed first on both of the albums involving him. In fact, I'd just mentioned, around the discussion of Nauportus in July, how I'd particularly come to value Thompson's participation, even as he seems so often to be in the background, and so it's hard to avoid a direct comparison.... (And among his trios, Ag is surely the closer comparison to The Visitors, since it involves Northover, as well as a more aggressively metallic percussion palette....) Gibbs often has such a bright & sparkling style, as I'd noted around his work with Dunmall, as well as a grounding in progressive rock styles that seems to return frequently, but little of that is really heard on The Visitors: There are moments when Gibbs projects a ringing tone, but he starts in a muted style (recalling mbira), and is often more a part of a rhythm team with Magliocchi. Indeed, sometimes he really isn't noticeable, so some similar comments might apply, as e.g. a swirling high horn duet or varying & sometimes aggressive percussion attracts more attention. I'm consequently not entirely sure what to make of the situation, but this quartet is obviously trying to forge a new style. In that, it seems less polished (or even classical) than Runcible, with less interweaving of longer lines, and more tendency to reduce forces, often highlighting duo configurations. There's also a sort of "world" or primitivist vibe underlying all these albums, and as I've mentioned, part of that involves questions of musical technology (& so e.g. guitar projection...). The Visitors seems to treat those issues explicitly ahistorically, i.e. via some sort of "ancient aliens" imagery: I tend to regard the typical "ancient aliens" history-entertainment genre as intertwined with racism, given the usual premises involved in its appreciation, i.e. that various peoples couldn't have possibly built something... and I feel like I have to mention that here, since I've recently reiterated it as a theme, but here the musicians seem to be taking a more "innocent" tack around reinventing global music history. (And "aliens" probably does characterize some actual world historical encounters well enough....) There's thus an exploratory feel, as well as some great moments, especially dual horns against percussion, moving at times from calm to raucous & back. There's a lot of presence too, relatively speaking, and so perhaps The Visitors is also more approachable than the other albums mentioned in this entry.... It didn't really speak to me as directly, though.    

21 October 2019



Gibbs, Metcalfe, Northover & Magliocchi - The Visitors

We follow the musical adventures of Adrian Northover and Marcello Magliocchi in a world of absolutely free improvisation. Not further than a few weeks ago we were delighted with the Sea Of Frogs album. We also know well, and we highly value, their recordings as part of The Runcible Quintet or the Sezu Quartet. Each time we write about the music of an Englishman and Italian, we always direct the interest of listeners towards the artistic heritage of the unforgettable John Stevens and his musical idea, archetype free improv - Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Perhaps these two gentlemen today deserve to be called the most valuable continuators of the music of the formation, which, among others gave the name of the page you are reading.Today, we give ear to The Visitors recording, made in March this year in one of London recording studios. Four musicians met there: Marcello Magliocchi on drums (mainly percussion instruments), Adrian Northover on soprano and alto saxophone, Neil Metcalfe on the flute (as the only of them he played the Spontaneous Music Ensemble!) And Phil Gibbs on the guitar. The six-part improvisation lasts 64 minutes and 46 seconds, and will be delivered by British FMR Records. The album in CD format is one of the autumn premieres of the label.

Arrival. The sound of drum brushes, a small flute, a modest guitar and a soprano saxophone, the sound of which initially reaches us from the so-called second or even third plane - these are the components of free improvisation, for which detail, a single sound, built with precision and without excessive hurry. Most instruments seem to be tuned very high, and the element constituting the course of improvisation is the intense creation on the plates of a very extensive subsection of the drum set. The musicians build the story collectively from the first second of the studio concert. They often create it from microfrashes, delicate sounds that convince each other very well. Therefore, the special airiness, a certain dramatic transience of pure acoustics are the maturity attributes of this tasty improvisation. Artists are able to enter the dynamic narrative mode literally in the blink of an eye. They also quickly cover the return journey. This is democracy, which in the first installment, after the introduction phase, seems to be forming under the unusually enlightened leadership of the soprano saxophone. There is a lot going on up here, and the bottom sounds are almost solely the guitar, which, however, does not rush with any particularly low attire. It is the guitar that creates an interesting narrative around 5 minutes, when the flute and saxophone weave the first dialogue important for this album. However, nothing on this album happens without the participation of a very extensive army of percussion, which - as we have already mentioned - consists mainly of cymbals, as well as the delicate edges of the snare and volumes. In the 8th minute we come across another tasty dialogue - this time the guitar and flute, and then the saxophone (already alto!) And percussion. A lot of action variability, frequent play in subgroups (challenge seems to be chasing here challange!) Is another feature of this quick sound game. For the finale of the first edition - such a sophisticated, very energetic quartet exhibition, well suppressed, like the best moments from the noble history of Spontaneous Music Ensemble!

Dispersal. The second story is born on the guitar strings and in a flute tuba. Both instruments phrase very melodically, as if creating an ad hoc soundtrack for the film noir. From a distant world, support is provided by cymbals and a soprano saxophone. The story is agile and thickens with a beautiful dialogue on the flanks made by the wind instruments placed there. In 6 minutes, the guitar plaits its mantra, the saxophone rustles with an empty tube, and the plates dance across the sky - a beautiful moment! Then the flute cools the emotions a bit, and the narrative begins to smell like chamber noir exposition! In the 9th minute - there are no empty runs! - we can already find the quartet in a quick gallop. The musicians seem to exceed the speed limits, but because they are great drivers, braking is extremely safe, made with long phrases that refer to the beginning of this improvisation with a climate. Bravo!

Encounters. The dancing flute inaugurates another story. The drums put on single hits, the gongs shine with clear sound. After a while, the alto saxophone and guitar (from the very bottom) begin to build the proper narrative, again from detail to the general, with a great support from the army of cymbals. The moment of extinction is made at the perfect moment, as if on the signal of the baton of an invisible conductor. The next part of the story creates a flute with the support of a filigree guitar (by the way the drums are doing their job again!). After 7 minutes, the quartet seems to be jumping from flower to flower, but the beauty of the narrative seems to be gaining on it. Immediately afterwards, the guitar breaks in its three groszy, and in the background the other instruments are prepared quickly dy sound. There is a flute commentary, followed immediately by a short soprano solo. The finale becomes extremely fiery again.

Estrangement. Guitar preparations and high flute and saxophone comments are the opening aura of the fourth story. Beautiful ornaments of percussion, a taste of chamber music in the best understanding of this aesthetic category. In the 6th minute the story pulls up the flute, the guitar flows lower, it seems as light as a peacock feather, the drums are humming. The return of the soprano heralds the dynamism of the narrative at the very end, which seems to be the tradition of this album. Also smart stopping!

Propagation. The fifth part - at the start saxophone and guitar in a gentle walk along the dense edge of the cliff. The flute comes in after more than two minutes, plates with it. Again an increase in dynamics, again agile braking - the guitar draws loops, the flute sings in the undiscovered aesthetics of the post-chamber. The alto saxophone releases drones of dry air and then snorts flirtatiously. To the pair he has a flute that asks for a sip of water. Drum commentary ... extremely percussion, and guitar edges full of burrs. Here is a quartet that gains strength and swiftly gallops to the glory of a great alto party. Braking rests, not for the first time, on the shoulders of the flute. At the end of the longest story on the album, each instrument tries drone aesthetics. Everyone ends up singing! Magic drum tricks find the last sound.

Departure. The finale of this excellent CD doesn't last even two minutes. We have the impression that it is a fragment of a larger whole, subjected to the pressure of editorial scissors. A collective show in the obvious aesthetics of the SME - quite dynamic, quite calm! The flute dances with the saxophone, and the guitar does the duties of putting out the light.