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****THE WIRE 2008 TOP 50 RECORDS OF THE YEAR WINNER****
"A couple of years ago the promoters Arika invited John Butcher to tour a number of out-of-the-way spaces in Scotland. The venues, selected for their extreme acoustic properties, included a mausoleum, a wartime fuel-storage tank and a cave. This album grows out of Butcher’s evident interest in escaping the acoustic confines of conventional venues (work with resonant spaces is documented on the earlier Geometry of Sentiment and Cavern with Nightlife). Butcher plays tenor and soprano saxophones, sometimes adding feedback and amplification to the soprano. Such site-specific performances are unrepeatable, of course, but this CD shows that you didn’t have to be there to get what he’s doing. Also on the tour was Japanese sound artist Akio Suzuki and, at times, something akin to Suzuki’s meditative attentiveness to spatialised sound is apparent on the CD. But the uplifting, exciting thing about the release is how Butcher attacks the spaces: each of the improvisations is highly attuned to the acoustic characteristics of the venue, with Butcher were improvising dialogues with the ghostly sonic contours of the playing environment. Each of the pieces develops its own specific vocabulary in relation to the space. Many of the tracks allow gaps between sounds for the venue’s resonances to be heard, though “Calls from a Rusty Cage” suddenly leaps into whirling circular breathing with a flamboyant glissando (which, weirdly enough in this fairly extreme context, recalls the opening to Rhapsody in Blue). The feedback effects are particularly effective, but everything from the skeletal rattle of saxophone keys to upper-register whistles and stentorian foghorn blasts is explored. Importantly, Butcher’s improvisations never sound as if the saxophonist is wearing a lab coat. The developing musical thought is always kept in view. What we hear is the performer interacting with unusual spaces, transforming our awareness of them as he does so. So you really didn’t have to be there, you can buy this instead – it’s a triumph." (Will Montgomery - The Wire)