John Russell - Radu Malfatti - Paul Lovens - Phil Durrant - John Butcher
PINDROP TIME. The music two minutes into News from the Shed couldn't be quieter. With Russell's unmistakable soundless explosions of fragmentary unvoiced guitar - the quietest element - as inspiration and direction, this quintet never rises to force or volume to make their points. "Everything Stops For Tea" almost isn't there at all.
Theyre uncommonly laconic as well: long mastery or else masterly intuition help them never to overburden an idea with its clumsy exposition - a touch, and they're onto something new. Theyre control freaks, formally and physically. Endings are so spectral, so minutely signalled, that they're uncanny.
Improvisation in London is fallen on lean times - as lean as any it's known in 25 years. If you wanted to be romantic, you could make a case for the music on this record (and that on Conceits, Actas LP Of The Year last year) as a sound-painting of sonic resourcefulness in a thin season. In purely practical terms, equipment's cheaper etc. You find what you want in the Kitchen; you can record it there, too.
But the necessary concentration has uncovered something more than ways of saving money where there isn't any anyway. Microscopic, minimalist, dirty Abstract Expressionism. Or something. Remember that pin? Did you happen to notice the Jackson Pollock painted, on the head of it? The mystically inclined would argue it hardly matters whos aware of it, as long as its been done. Maybe so. Personally speaking I think the only satisfactory acknowledgement of something like this is crowds of people pushing each other out of the way to purchase the record. Go for it.