Pascal Nichols and David McLean reactivate their Cornered Yet Climbing duo, returning to record ‘Fevered Relaties’ with the crucial inclusion of Kelly Jayne Jones, Nichol’s long term collaborator in Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides. What results is a more cohesive and refined collection of improvisations which, whilst touching on a similar array of sonic sources exhibited on their debut ‘Reclaiming Fire’, is detectably more focused in mood and temperament. There is a ritualistic quality to each of the 5 pieces that make up the record, melding digital processing with acoustic sources and drenched in a sheen of chambered reverb that at times sounds liturgical.
‘Raw Healing’ erupts with scuzzed out synths and blasts of intermittent percussion, Nichols setting entirely his own rhythm. The angularity of the beginning softens into a slow burning exchange of forlorn, dreary saxophone from McLean and a steady, funeral pace from Nichols which Jone’s flute dances between. The opiate fog of this march is routinely shattered by blurts of screaming Tenor Sax and bombastic percussion and Jones dials in otherworldly samples. What’s left of a song is gutted into seas of static glitch and textural explorations that pan round listeners ears, creaking and snapping with brutal clarity against a sheet of silence. ‘Two Holed Experiment’ follows as one of the most unique takes on the record, a mixture of sandblasted tones and pounding bass drum exhaling into one another, having more in common with Sandwell District and Emptyset at their most crepuscular than any improv curiosity. ‘Calm Winds Carry he Breath of Birds’ sees the trio at their most pastoral, with samples of bird song intertwining with call and response alto saxophone and flute, jousting around Nichol’s martial drumming. He and Kelly eventually pair off in a Kabuki theatre inspired duo, her flute flowering Shakuhachi tones in an Orient inspired flight of melody anchored by shamanic drums and crystalline synth pads. It marks one of many instances of telepathic interplay from the pair, full of a richness of space and drama that colours the entire record. ‘Islands of Opium’ furthers the two’s theatrical exchanges before Pascal detonates into a skittering percussive solo, playing almost an anti-time signature yet somehow managing to keep a feeling of propulsion against waves of hazed out synths and ghostly flute tones.
The 20minute epic ‘Saudade For Rain Tunnels’ that bookends the album is a perfect summation of the trios heady investigative work. Beginning with ominous gong chimes and fluttering flute, a stomping corrupted dub beat rises with a drenched sample of rain fall that acts as the foundation for more morose interplay between tenor sax and flute and the occasional mangled free jazz explosion of drum and sax. The near Celtic melancholy that emits from McLean’s sax brings round a circularity to albums end and echoes the breathy, sullen passages of opener ‘Raw Healing’ but in more extended from.
There is a real dark majesty to this music and the inclusions of Kelly Jayne Jones has allowed for a more spacious and empathic interplay between the trio which opts to shed ample room for the dynamics of their instruments and melodies rather than charge headstrong into space swallowing cacophony. It is resolutely the production and mixing duties of GODOT that has elevated the performances and pieces that make the record into something that sounds alive and organic, founds sounds whirling round the mix and detailed in minute texture, the song of each of the trio’s instruments leaving comet trails through vaporous reverb. Instead of focusing on the abstract and abrasive which that characterises a lot of modern free improvisation, there is a sense that this trios working is more about a shared quest in instant composing and the idea that mood and atmosphere be brought about by melody.
"Fathomless improvisation by Tombed Visions bossman David McLean, together with Pascal Nichols and Kelly Jayne Jones ov Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides. Over one hour of free-jazz, crushing metal, electronic drones and wigged-out psychedelia from endlessly inventive players."
"From apppearing on Gnod's triple-LP blockbuster Infinity Machines, to playing with Naked (On Drugs) and his own mighty power trio Lake of Snakes – to name but three – the sound of David McLean on saxophone has been one of the most familiar in Manchester's murky underground this year. Here, he teams up with Wire magazine favourite Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides for a truly haunting set of rurally evocative dark meanders, pulling one way and the other between Raw Healing's bolshy industrial squall to the likes of Calm Winds Carry the Breath of the Birds attempts to push away from the clutter of urbanity."
- Simon Catling, The Skinny
"Fevered Realities is slow burning dark jazz composition that requires your patience. It requires that you allow it to wash over you and digest it. The whole recording sounds as though it was done in a cave as everything is soaked in echoey reverb. At times a saxophone blindly finds its way through endless tunnels of darkness, searching and calling while moments later the cassette has become a beautifully noisy drone tape with downtempo thudding. It meanders and morphs and keeps you wondering what will come next - field recordings, somber horns or some other experimental concoction. I suggest indulging yourself to find out. It's a beautifully executed piece of music that deserves your attention. Tombed Vision habitually uses two-up Norelco cases but sadly there is only one clear shelled cassette inside. This does however give room for a larger j-card and no cost has been spared on the layout and printing which is done on heavy weight card stock. The art is as elegant as the music, methodically combining differently styles"
- Guide Me Little Tape
""This tape from Cornered Yet Climbing is built from the same stuff that made Gnod’s sprawling opus Infinity Machines such a brutally sprawling triumph. Tombed Visions’ head honcho and Gnod’s own sax man David McLean duetted with drummer Pascal Nichols under the Cornered Yet Climbing name before, but the pair are augmented here by fellow Manchester sound artist, Kelly Jayne Jones. She wields a whole host of concrète clatter and found object noises (including scraped house bricks) alongside some stunning flute playing, and Nichols has never played with more understated power."
- Tristan Bath, The Wire, The Quietus
"I’m late to this, as ever, but perhaps even later than usual for a tape that’s been reviewed effusively almost everywhere and has even made its way into The Quietus’ list of the top albums of 2015. So I guess I’ll add my positive squeaks to the chorus of approval that’s already in full effect. Cornered Yet Climbing is usually a duo consisting of Tombed Visions’ headman and Gnod sax botherer David McLean, and seasoned free-improv drummer and experimentalist Pascal Nichols. They’re joined on this release by Manchester-based sound artist Kelly Jayne Jones, who brings brilliantly terse and granular noises – plus occasional twisting, turning flute lines – to the duo’s exploratory blasts.
Fevered Realities is not to be taken lightly. Its soundworld is distinctive and many-hued. Think Machinefabrik in a room with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble covering 808 State’s Pacific State, produced by Manfred Eicher. Is that mind-bending enough for you? To parse out the trio’s distinctive sound a bit more, they mix blocks of abstract noise with free jazz abandon, leavening the mix with keening saxophone and flute lines, around which twirl the echoes of a hallucinatory tropicalia.
If that sounds like a dish suffering from a surfeit of ingredients, well, you’d be right to worry. But, overall, the crew keep things from getting too overstimulated with shrewd variation of these constituent parts across this tape’s four tracks. In Side A’s opener, Raw Healing, a tidal undertow of deep drones propels Nichols’ wild, percussive flurries as McLean’s sax licks whoop serenely above it all, before finally reaching a squawking crescendo. But that’s not the end, as Jones adds a rustling coda of scratches, patters and gurgles, all the more unsettling for being swathed in a deep echo. There’s a somewhat abrupt tonal shift into Two-Holed Experiment, which sandwiches machine-style white noise and electronic rumbles into crunchy striated layers, its dark pessimism a gloomy counterpart to the preceding tune’s serotonin-drenched soloing. The trio bring the jazz back for Birds of Paradise, with the eponymous avian chirruping providing a trippy backdrop for some spacey flute and drum grooves.
Over on Side B, Islands of Opium continues to go deep, with woozy, stretched synths, clonking toms and long, siren-like drones creating a suitably narco’d exotica. Think Herbie Mann’s Stone Flute as the soundtrack to Once Upon a Time in America’s poppy-fuelled visions. Jones’ flute is crucial here, as it is in the epic Saudade for Rain Tunnels, providing a breathy counterpoint to McLean’s full-throated sax bursts and Nichols’ grindcore avalanche of tribal bludgeon. The trio finally achieve some kind of release from their earthly woes at about 18 minutes, rushing into paradise and gradually vanishing from view while gauzy layers of synth wrap everything in a numinous ambient haze. Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. Shanti, shantih, shantih."
- Paul Margree, We Need No Swords
"Whew, now comes that time of year when its time to scrabble through the missed connections on the review list and this one comes out pretty high near the top. A re-invigoration of Pascal Nichols and David McLean’s Cornered Yet Climbing collaboration, this time with the help of Nichols’ partner in Part Wild Horses Man on Both Sides. The output here is a broken daydream of free jazz, wandering from mournful howl to full bite in the space of mere minutes. Adding to the flashing fangs of McLean’s sax are Jones’ ephemeral field recordings and flute, which weave through the clattering sonic tapestry set down by her two collaborators expertly. Her flute especially treads between ceremonial tribalism and folk serenity without ever making either style feel worn. The expanded trio finds its footing easily and though the length of these pieces is pretty heavy, bordering on intensely lengthy, the whole record plays as such an engrossing backdrop that its hard not to get sucked into the players’ world rather than see it as a necessarily surmountable listen. The record is expertly anchored by Nichols’ craggy, fluid drumming and his skill at finding the inroads in these pieces to drive pace and add texture is fairly unmatched this year. This is one to beat in the noise/free category and along with that Heroin in Tahiti release, this is a good year for the edges."
- Andy, Raven Sings The Blues
released September 1, 2015
Pascal Nichols - Drums, Percussion, Electronic Drums, Effect Pedals
Kelly Jayne Jones - Flute, Mixer, Percussion, Samples, Electronics
David McLean - Alto & Tenor Saxophone, Samples, Synths
Mixed By, Mastered By, Producer – GODOT
Photography – Julie Anne Cochrane
Graphic Design - Lewis McLean
Tombed Visions is a Manchester based cassette label specialising in improvisation, ambient music, experimental electronics
and noir aesthetics and aims to showcase the fringes of contemporary independent music. All releases are limited edition and packaged with care, combining a love of graphic design, photography, typography with the wondrous sounds released....more