Just when I thought I had collected all the recordings I could of Mark Wastell playing cello he unearths another gem from his vault, himself and Nikos Veliotis playing acoustic cellos. I started following Mark and the London/Berlin scene only about 6 years ago. I would be hard pressed to pick any other improvising cellists if had to choose a duet to hear. Lachenmann, Xenakis and Scelsi are my favorite cello composers and I imagine these two fellows are avid fans too. I missed out on the lowercase/reductionist, whatever you want to call it, phase while it was happening so to hear this recording from 2001 is exciting. My only other recordings of Nikos feature him on amplified cello so this 100% acoustic set is special.
The recording does not disappoint. The space, All Angles church in London, acts an amplifier and contributor to the music as very small sounds become audible and large sounds scream. The cellos stop playing from time to time but there is no silence as noises inside and traffic outside become present. In addition to quiet sounds there are many dense, harsh, violent passages but not of the talkative, call-and-response kind that might be typical of two musicians improvising. It is more as if they were playing a Lachenmann string quartet and decided to go off on their own to see if the audience could tell. The sounds range from double stops, con lengo, arco multiphonics, a variety of pizzicato, pure noise, and sine wave tones. It would have been wonderful to witness the live performance and be able to see the gestures and body language along with the sounds. (Gary Rouzer)