Is this a record? As the first full-length documentation of Alan Tomlinson since his 1980 solo LP issued by Bead and the 1986 FERALS (with Hugh Davies, Phil Minton & Roger Turner) on Leo, it must be. Most of you will know about Roger Turner, who has appeared on several recordings, and about Steve Beresford, who has appeared on even more. But Alan Tomlinson might be a less familiar name - though you should check out the Emanem CDs of THE ALL ANGELS CONCERTS (4209) and the London Improvisers Orchestra's PROCEEDINGS (4201) for more. (He has also been recorded with John Stevens, Kahondo Style, Peter Brφtzmann, and the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra.)
If this IS a record, it's a varied one. Try N1, for example, where someone trapped inside a trombone is pleading to be let out - a kind of demented speaking in tongues. Or EC3, which at times sounds like the Sabre Dance remixed by Xenakis. Or N2, a subdued and faintly unhappy track, where the sounds blend so closely that it's hard to know who's to blame.
On other tracks, AT can invoke the lugubrious dignity of English brass band music, he can move instantaneously from a murmur to a howl and back again, he can play off the acoustics of the room by whirling round on one heel and spraying sounds in all directions, he can play tunefully and with immense power. He is as alert to the comic potential of all that sliding about as he is to the most advanced techniques.
If I mention AT particularly, it's only because of his rarity value. The recording is a group creation - all three appear on all tracks. It's intriguing that when three such strong players are given their freedom, the music is often so quiet and subtle. This is not a music which tries to pass off stamina as inventiveness, and you never feel that time is being filled up for the sake of it. All the same, it's edge-of-the-seat stuff, really.
If you're not familiar with the group's music, you have some catching up to do. Get on with it, then - you won't regret it. And if you come across a copy of AT's Bead record, don't hesitate. He was excellent then, and he has persisted in his folly in the decades since. A reissue is called for - but in the meanwhile there's this, and the other Emanem CDs. Things are looking up.
RICHARD LEIGH (2003)