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Ex-Wise-Heads have been making music, performing and recording since 1997. They have released two albums and played at various Festivals and venues, mainly in the South East of England.
Originally a duo comprising former Henry Cow saxophonist Geoff Leigh and bassist Colin Edwin, of hardworking UK rock band Porcupine Tree, the addition of multi percussionist Vincent Salzfaas added the spark they were searching for in their quest to explore a rootsy and experimental, yet accessible form of music, both 'World Music' influenced and curiously English at the same time.
With latest release Time and Emotion Study the band have grown in confidence, widening their horizons with an apparently ever increasing appetite for an eclectic mix of global styles and sounds.
Following on from the first album No Grey Matter, it showcases the sound of a trio who are not afraid to blend unusual sounds in an accessible way.
1 Scotched Up 4.01
2 Knight to Castle in the Air 4.41
3 Hydrahead 4.43
4 Bubbles and Baubles 3.53
5 Don't Walk in my Baboushes 4.51
6 Slender Threads 6.08
7 Billy Wood Blues 7.10
8 Diminishing Returns 4.20
9 Broken at Work... 2.51
10 ..Mended at Play 4.55
Geoff Leigh - soprano sax, flutes, zither, keyboards, melodica, shenai, voice.
Colin Edwin - electric fretless/fretted/acoustic/double basses, guimbri.
Vincent Salzfaas - berimbow,all percussion : bougarabous, brekete, djundjun, djembe, darabouka, bells, shakers, woodblocks etc.
Special guest Peter Knight - violin and electric viola,(tracks
Scotched Up - A live trio recording with no dubs,and more hoedown shenanigens! Solo berimbow sets the mood - enter a (real time delay and hold) bass loop,Colin subtly joining it. Woody flute and tongueclicking moving in to long melodic lines. The energy builds, ebbs, and flows - one final crescendo before tailing out heads first.
Knight To Castle In The Air - Almost baroque. Bars of 3,4,5,(for all you beat-counting addicts out there). Pete's violin counterpoint wafts in and out of double tracked flute,both playing the melody to start,then one flute starting to improvise with the violin,gradually leading into a vari-speed soprano sax / violin duet,collapsing into one of Vince's unmistakable boug solos, with some discreet additional violin colours. Winding down to fragmented sound bites of the original melody - mere suggestions rather than statements.
Hydrahead - Mixed metaphors express from the orient. Lyrical acoustic bass guitar over a backwash of zither,delicate bells,and flute harmonics. The melody is played on zither and harmonium-likemelodica, gently complemented by flute swirls. Vince bides his time before coming in on some tribal beats,and the bass starts to groove. A gradual buildup with waves of high energy conversation between the flute and melodica - reprise of the melody,slowly back to that calm sea,then drifting off into subliminality.
Bubbles And Baubles - More Arabian kasbah clatter than bright shiny beads (remember?). Geoff's only vocal excursion of the album kicks off with a lazy unison voice / synth outing,going from a short introinto the tune,solo following. A quick reprise of the tune gives Colintime to switch from guimbri to fretless (how I love those undisguisedreal time changes!). Then it's short solo swaps between soprano saxand percussion,and back to the tune. Short and sweet!
Don't Walk In My Babouches - this is the closest thing to a "bigproduction number", and also to Gnawan trance. The melody barelystated, and Geoff's away with a restless flute solo, weaving in and outof an almost folky guimbri / tambourine / brekete groove, beforeVince changes to bougs and cranks up the energy big-time! Soprano saxblurts,squelches,reed slaps,delays and unison riffs with organgenerate another layer, over which shenai wails away in trueshamanic space / time.
Slender Threads - A live improvised trio recording originally mixed bySteve Wilson for his Hidden Art label compilation CD (hi-art 8).Colin's double bass is featured on this (relatively minimalist post jazzfm) little gem. It uses the same Moroccan scale as "Song For Jalil"(also on the compilation and the band's 1st CD "no grey matter"), butwith a different key and vibe. Sparse electric piano and flute,nicepercussion fading into the sunset finale.
Billy Wood Blues - well...that title gives the game away straight off!This most "song-like structure" of the whole CD is strangelysubverted,apparently because the vocalist didn't show up for therecording session,and Geoff didn't feel like singing it! A boweddouble bass drone underpinning flute,zither,violin,and fretlesselectric bass impros lead to quite a relaxed folksy groove, a chorus that could have been given the whole orchestral treatment,but instead is left to make it's presence felt more subtly. Listen out for Peter's violin solo....
Diminishing Returns - the only improvised / live / no dubs quartetrecording of the CD. Basic recipe : take a half-diminished scale,let thebass develop a simple but effective riff, Vince a nice laid-backdarabouka rhythm, then let the flute and fuzz viola loose over it. Theflute dominates - snippets of riffs, part solo, part conversational, almost relentless. What happens after the fade-out will no doubt turn up on a disc somewhere near you soon!
Broken At Work, Mended At Play - tracks 9 and 10 are essentially onepiece - the split is so that those of you who really hate freeimprovisation can skip 9 and go straight to 10! Starts with various scrapings,sproings and crunches,at the same time creating an almostambient / chill feel. Try and figure out who's doing what! The wholething transmutes itself into track 10 via another live bass loop, themelody played in unison by flute,violin,and fretless bass,while Vince'swoodblocks,bells,and cymbals create a part circus,part Kurt Weil, totally Ex-Wise Heads sound! Quite a few changes in this one...oncepast the melody,enter some very dirty,spiky soprano,rhythmic violinand bougs, building up but suddenly collapsing back into the essenceof the original melody,stripped right down to the essentials,almostmelancholic, kind of nostalgic.......a fitting end to a good tale.
Enrico Reed - January 2003