Thursday, 24 October 2013
Robert Wood's Tombac Vibe from 1976 and Robert would vibrarock, too
From a post on continuo's blog:
In 1971-72, English vibraphonist Robert Wood was a member of French band Lard Free, the band Gilbert Artman led before Urban Sax. Wood later asked Artman to play drums on his own second LP, ‘Sonanbular’, while Artman included vibraphone on the first Lard Free official LP (1973), as well as the Clear Light Symphony LP (1975) and Urban Sax. The ‘Sonanbular’ front cover (the industrial devices pictured above) was used for Dominique Grimaud’s epochial book on French 1970s avant-rock ‘Un Certain Rock Français’ volume 1 (1977). Half of the tracks on ‘Sonabular’ are vibes+drums duos where the drums are recorded from a distance, as if from next room (tr.# 1, 4 & 5). But their dialogue is perfectly matched as the drummer adjusts to the vibe player’s bravado. On #4 especially, Wood sounds like a Cecil Taylor on vibraphones. Other tracks, especially the longest ones, arise from mutli-tracked vibraphones (tr.# 3) allowing Wood to build nuanced soundscapes from mostly soft, tiny sounds from 3 different instruments. His techniques includes stereo panning, perspective soundboard mixing and extended vibraphone technique. Woods is not afraid of ugly sounds, sometimes hitting the wooden frame or creating nasty metallic sounds with his mallets. In trying to extend the vibraphone sonic possibilities he sometimes favors the non-resonant sounds of the instrument. Unlike any other vibes player I’ve heard, Wood’s vibraphone playing is unique and owes nothing to Lionel Hampton or the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Here is Robert Wood's discography. I have all his records, and this is the only one which is truly progressive rock. I actually don't recommend you attempt to hear the others, only this one, in fact, he recycled some earlier tracks for this record, improving them by tightening them up or adding vocals. The first albums were more in the instrumental 'free jazz wankery with vibes' style. (I'm sorry if there are some out there to whom this style is more appealing than to me.) This little record though is a real find, featuring all the hallmarks of the brit prog rock style, with unusual chord changes, dissonances, etc. It was a real treat to hear that classic style again ...
For example in the chosen track below, Shades of Mu, the melody is constructed out of a diminished chord in C, that is (C - Eflat - Fsharp - A). The melody goes up to the minor third, then drops down to the tritonal F sharp and later in the song travels downwards: C, A, Fsharp. The wonderful "doom and gloom" sound of the diminished chord is used extensively in death metal (as a chord progression that is, tonic, minor third, flat fifth), there's something about that use of minor or diminished intervals that causes humans to think negatively, the prototype for this being the step from tonic to minor third. Is it because the whole-number ratio of the major third unexpectedly flatted by a semitone leads to momentary confusion in neurological processing and down the line to a surprised and negative response? But how does the feeling come in? Impressionism in visual arts is esthetically pleasing for example but (to me at least) lacking emotional content. In the case of music the response is so immediate, there must be a direct connection between auditory processing and emotions. But is it more cultural or innate? Of course this is a mystery in both art and science. I bought Oliver Sacks' book "Musicophilia" in a thirst for enlightenment because his previous books provide wonderful insight into the odd way the brain is organized through case histories of people with unusual strokes that 'knock out' a certain processing ability of the brain but leave the rest intact (e.g. the man who mistook his wife for a hat). Unfortunately, he was as puzzled at the end as at the beginning and so was I...
Please keep us bookmarked here, I will feature lots more rarities from the vaults in the next couple of weeks. Next up will be an incredibly rare find in the mid seventies Genesis vein. And who doesn't love Genesis?
Remember, occasionally I will only review a big wishlist item, with a view to holding back in order to sell the record, and I apologize in advance for this. (Like what's done on the cd reissue wishlist.)
On the other hand, I welcome any requests relating to the chosen topic of progressive, fusion, and jazz from this era (that is, not already easily available obviously). Either email me or put in a comment below.