Absinth

If someone asked me what Mark Wastell’s “field of research” was, my answer, after listening to this sober yet intense effort, would be: “defining the shape of resonance between silences”. Scored for grand piano, tam tam and tubular bell, Amoungst English Men is the direct consequence of Wastell’s Vibra albums for solo tam tam. It’s music that must be played (and listened to) with Templar concentration, acknowledging its influences – Feldman, most notably – and achieving the noble result of putting listeners in a state of almost complete detachment by delivering them from tension, little by little. The composition is articulated through three “phases”; the first 15 minutes feature barely moving harmonic cascades and looming phrases, courtesy of Wastell’s manipulating the keys in the Steinway’s bottom octave, a reflective exploration of an area of the instrument prone to timbral deterioration given the conflictual nature of resulting overtones. Wastell avoids dead spots by leaving the necessary space for the music to fill our mental mould while he prepares us for the second and most engrossing section. There, at first, piano and tam tam play a sort of slowed-down call-and-response game, until the gong is left alone to fill the room with amorphous halos and caressing throbs which recall not only Vibra but also “Amann”, the closing track of Keith Rowe and Toshimaru Nakamura’s magnificent Between. In the last five minutes or so, a rarefied and almost imperceptible tolling diminishes the sound weight progressively and effectively, bringing the piece to a perfect conclusion. Amoungst English Men confirms Mark Wastell as a truly sensitive musician, and one who’s not afraid to express fundamental truth with minimal means, carving deep signs in the wood of our essence.

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