Tony Oxley : electronics & concept
Stefan Hölker : acoustic percussion
Recorded in Viersen, Germany on 25th November 2019
Recorded, mixed and edited by Karsten Lehl
Cover graphics generated from the painting Beaming by Tony Oxley
Photography and technical assistance by Ruth Jentkes and Tutta Oxley
Cover design by Matthew Brandi
Produced by Mark Wastell
℗ Confront Recordings 2020
Over the course of the last six decades, Tony Oxley has been developing an individual approach to time and expansive percussion orchestration, expanding his with kit with a plethora of cymbals, cowbells, woodblocks, and castoff pots and pans. But his explorations into the integration of electronics and percussion are often overlooked. From early on, Oxley was drawn to extending his drum set with electronics, utilizing a frame of knives, springs, egg slicers, motors, and metal detritus amplified and processed with compressors, ring modulators and octave dividers. He did all of this with a constantly shifting pool of collaborators, playing as the house drummer at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, leading his own projects, or working with musicians ranging from Derek Bailey and Gavin Bryars, Stan Tracey, Howard Riley, Alan Skidmore, The Quartet (with Gerd Dudek, Rob van den Broeck and Ali Haurand), Paul Bley, Cecil Taylor, or Bill Dixon amongst many others. It’s been over a decade since Tony Oxley last recorded so this release on Mark Wastell’s Confront label is met with particular excitement, particularly since much of his output is currently out-of-print.
Which brings us to Beaming. This time out, Oxley, credited with “electronics and concept,” is joined by percussionist Stefan Hölker for a series of six improvised vignettes titled “Frame I – VI.” From the initial chimes, shuddering rattles, gongs, clinks, and clatter, it is impossible to separate Hölker’s contributions from Oxley’s. Each improvisation leaps into a collectively enveloping sound world full of rich resonance and a multiplicity of timbral colors. Listening to each of the pieces is akin to being submersed in a sonic stream as the music surges with propulsive energy. Metallophones meld with ratchets, tuned drums, wood blocks, and the skittering chatter of shakers along with dynamically morphing, electronically processed textures, tones and oscillations. Melodic threads of what sounds like a piano can be discerned amidst the mix.
Oxley’s electronics transform the decay of the instrumental palette, with sharp attacks pricking through the densely evolving fields of sound. Pieces continuously unfold rather than heeding to specific arcs or lines of development. Pacing changes from piece to piece as does the density of the sound. “Framing I” bursts with bristling vitality which bounces around the teeming sound field. “Framing II” opens up, leaving more space for resonances to gather, accentuating the use of mallet instruments against the whirring electronic colorations. “Framing IV” proceeds with a particularly restless energy, jolting and shifting with brisk abandon. “Framing VI” is the most rambunctious of the set, as threads and textures careen against each other with animated, frenetic abandon over a more extended duration than some of the other pieces, allowing the overall activity level to accrue into an engulfing aural whole. Some of the pieces fade off while others end with a hard cut, giving an impression that these are glimpses into active works-in-progress. At 81, It’s great to hear that Oxley is showing no signs of slowing down in his sonic pursuits. This release is truly unique in his expansive career and well worth searching out. (Michael Rosenstein, Point of Departure, USA)