Having used extensive editing and some remixing for the second of their two excellent Potlatch CDs, Albi Days, Contest of Pleasures – the trio of John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones), Xavier Charles (clarinet) and Axel Dorner (trumpet) – returns to its initial acoustic position with Tempestuous, which launches the new British label, Another Timbre. Recorded late on a stormy November night in an old church during the 2006 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival,Tempestuous moves between the poles of calm and urgency that the setting might suggest. It even documents the ambient rattles of the building. There’s something marvelous about a performance by this group. Each musician has an achieved purity of sound (suggesting the bel canto of a sine tone), so that he might stand as a model of what soprano, trumpet or clarinet should sound like. Each musician has also explored the sonic potential of his instrument to the point where there are moments that might be attributable to any one of them -- finger taps and air passing through a column become central events.
One notable aspect of their work is the exploration of beat patterns, the sounds that arise as two pitches move toward unison, so that there are sounds that can’t be said to arise from any one of the three. At one point or another, each player approaches the specific glissando of a siren, doing so in the midst of sustained long tones. The result suggests an Arvo Part score with air-raid hardware. The sum total is an ineffable masterpiece, an unusual collocation of the original and beautiful. (Stuart Broomer)