Recently I came across my old copies of Musics – the magazine published by the London Musicians Collective in the mid- to late 1970’s. One issue has an extended discussion between, amongst others, Steve Beresford, David Toop and Evan Parker about whether instrumental expertise is an essential ingredient in good improvisation. The discussion still has resonances today, eg a discussion of Beresford’s tendency at the time to play piano in a faux naif clowning style prefigures some of the arguments underlying the recent ‘Idiots and Idioms’ release by Mattin, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Raymond Brassier and Seijiro Murayama which Richard reviewed here. For me the argument about instrumental excellence has been fundamentally transformed in the intervening 35 years by the increasingly widespread use of electronics in contemporary improvisation. These days it’s a no-brainer that it’s possible to produce excellent improvised music without touching a conventional instrument, let alone being a virtuoso on one. The accessibility and versatility of digital technology means that virtually anyone can make intriguing sounds without having to first practise scales and/or extended techniques over a period of years. Of course turning those intriguing sounds into something that holds together musically is still a challenge, and it would be interesting to see how much contemporary electronic improvisation seems as substantial in another 35 years time as it seems exciting now. (I’ll be dead by then, so I’ll never know…) Anyway, that Musics discussion came into my head when I was listening to Nepretrganost, the new CD by Seijiro Murayama and Tomaž Grom on the excellent L’Innomable label. Unlike on the disc with Mattin, here Murayama is certainly not playing the fool. The extreme stripped-down nature of both his kit and his playing style certainly has a quality of simplicity, but it is the simplicity of a master not an idiot. The high quality of Murayama’s technique, touch and listening is evident throughout, and he shows again that you don’t have to be fast and showy to be virtuosic. Grom is relatively new to me, but on the evidence here he is also a fine player. I’d only previously heard his TILT duo with Vrhovec Sambolec, which came out on the same label 3 years ago. That is very much electronics-based, with Sambolec using Max/MSP to transform and extend Grom’s doublebass. In contrast on Nepretrganost there are no electronics, and – though clearly rooted in the current world of post-reductionist improvisation – the purely acoustic sound also harks back to improv traditions from the days of Musics and beyond. Some people are quick to dismiss improvised music that doesn’t use electronics, assuming that it is only backward-looking, but that has always seemed a bizarre argument to me. Yes, as a whole improvised music has to keep pushing boundaries and moving in new directions, but (a) not every disc or performance should have to take on that project; there’s also room for music which consolidates recent developments, and (b) to equate a music’s worth with its instrumentation is silly; at its best electronics can be stunning, but it can also very easily produce samey and uninteresting music, while conversely it’s still quite possible to open up new sonic territories using conventional instruments (John Butcher, Axel Dörner, Bhob Rainey etc.) So Nepretrganost is a disc of fine acoustic playing that relies solely on the considerable instrumental skills of the musicians to maintain interest over its 5 tracks and 43 minutes. While there are plenty of extended techniques used by both players, there are probably none that I haven’t heard before. For me this doesn’t matter; not every disc has to prove itself by producing some unprecedented sound or concept. For me what matters here is whether Nepretrganost is stronger musically than either the more radical Idiots and Idioms or the perhaps more fashionable TILT disc, and I think it is. The titles of the tracks are the Slovenian words for ‘one’ to ‘five’ and each track flows into the next without pause. All the tracks contain sequences of sparse quiet material, but the music is always liable to shift gear and become busy in a scratching bustling sort of way. At times straightforwardly rhythmic passages emerge for a while as Murayama scrapes an object on his snare, and sometimes a rhythmic pattern becomes more sustained as Grom adds pizzicato beats. So while, as I said above, the disc as a whole clearly comes from the post-reductionist end of things, there are busier passages on most of the tracks which nod towards more jazz-based improv. This is one of the factors that distinguish Nepretrganost from another recent bass/percussion duo – Bestiaries by Dominic Lash and Patrick Farmer. That excellent disc has not been reviewed here because it was issued on Richard’s own Cathnor label, but you can read a good review of it by Brian Olewnick here. Those who like their improvisation restrained at all times will prefer Bestiaries, while those who like more variety and pace will prefer Nepretrganost. I suppose I’m more in the former camp, but there’s still plenty for me to enjoy in Nepretrganost, and there’s no reason why you should have to choose one against the other. There are common features to both, each being a strong and valid exploration of two instruments which still have plenty to offer as sound sources in contemporary music. I love the resonant sound of a bowed bass, and in general prefer the sequences when Tomaž Grom is playing arco, as at the start of Dva (2), where thin high bowed notes combined with gentle scraping sounds from the snare, before the bass moves into lower register in a wonderful passage of charged playing. But my favourite track is Tri (3), the most static piece on the disc. Starting with high-pitched bowed percussion, there follows a sequence which mixes these sounds with a melodica (or something that sounds like one?). Gradually the sounds move into lower pitches culminating in a beautiful low drone on the bass against which Murayama works again with sustained sounds in the upper register. Lovely. In contrast Pet (5) starts with hard irregular pizzicato on the bass against which Murayama offers a minimalist scraping (using brushes?) that gradually becomes faster and more rhythmic itself until the music takes off into the busiest and noisiest sequence on the disc, during which Murayama vocalises for the first and only time. On the speedy coda at the end Murayama is nearly playing drumrolls, though we’re still some way off from two musicians ‘going for it’ in the way that, for instance, John Edwards and Mark Sanders do on their ‘Nisus Duets’ disc on Emanem (the only other percussion/bass duo I can think of). So all in all, though Nepretrganost occasionally moves into areas that I don’t go for, it’s a disc that I enjoy very much. Good, honest and intelligent music by two skilled instrumentalists. Going back to the question posed in the Musics roundtable discussion: is such instrumental excellence an essential element in good improvisation? No, clearly not, but sometimes it definitely helps.'

Simon Reynell – thewatchfullear

Improvisation is an area of music that is can seem to be rather inscrutable and hard to enter into for the neophyte. Questions of worthiness, technique and that old chestnut “But is it any good?” rise up from the spectral gloom of the uninitiated mind. Most music obsessives have had some passing exposure to improvisation, be it with AMM, The Necks or Sunburned Hand of the Man, but do you know your Benninks from your Baileys? Admittedly, I don’t think I could respond in the affirmative to that question, other than to say I know that one mangles drumkits, whilst the other hunched over a semi-acoustic guitar. Which brings me back to that old chestnut from above… Tomaž Grom is a Slovenian double bassist, and is also artistic director of the Ljubljana-based not-for-profit Zavod Sploh cultural organisation. Japanese percussionist Seijiro Murayama is now based in France and has worked with the likes of Fred Frith & KK Null. Together on Nepretrganost, they have produced a spacious, at times barely perceptible example of the dynamic interplay between two musicians in command of their own syntax. An entirely acoustic recording, shying away from layers of electronic-derived improvisation, you can almost sense the dynamic interplay and straining senses, as the musicians explore timbre and texture across the relative brevity of this release. Numbered 1 – 5 in Slovenian, Ena’s (1) opening gambit of small, deliberate gestures is slowly supplanted by Murayama’s galloping snare pattern. On Tri (3), almost imperceptibly a high-pitched drone emanates from Grom’s bowed manipulation of a brass prayer-bowl like instrument. His double bass slowly slides into the mix, along with studiously bowed cymbals and what sounds like a melodica. Pet (5), is almost a summation of all the techniques and practices that have conspired in the previous pieces, with Murayama yelping and hiccupping like a man with tourette’s caught in the downward vortex of an emptying sink. The beauty of Nepretrganost is that it showcases two musicians who are sympathetic to the techniques and methods of each other; they allow space to flourish and retreat as necessary. If you enjoy music of an exploratory and transient nature, there is much to recommend on this release. But you’ll have to make up your own mind about that old chestnut posited above, dear reader.'

Oliver Laing – cyclicdefrost

Sajeta 2010 - "resnejši, se pravi glasbeni del, je nastopil ob še enem izmed množice nastopov japonskega skladatelja in improvizatorja Seijira Murayame pri nas. Tokrat z znancem festivala in Murayamovim sotrudnikom v obdobjih njegovega bivanja v Sloveniji, Tomažem Gromom. Minimalistična postavitev prvega za bobni in z glasom, drugega na kontrabasu tudi tokrat ni dopustila okleščenega zvočnega nabora. Dopolnjevanje obeh improvizatorjev je minilo skozi izmenjavo in dopolnjevanja daljših zvenov in ne prepogostih krajših not, s čimer je skozi celoten nastop zaokrožil konsistenten lok. Očitno vešča improvizatorja pa sta ob še spočiti uri, kljub minimalizmu ali ravno zaradi tega, odigrala enega intenzivnejših in resnejših špilov festivala"

Ivo Poderžaj in Aleš Rojc, radiostudent

Pri domači založbi L'Innomable, ki pokriva področje improvizirane glasbe tako domačih kot tujih ustvarjalcev, je pravkar izšla plošča improvizatorskega dua v sestavi muzičarjev, ki sta ta trenutek nepogrešljivi gibali slovenske improvizatorske scene. V nocojšnji Tolpi bumov tako poslušamo sveže in žmohtno raziskovanje zvoka z naslovom Nepretrganost, ki je prišlo izpod prstov domačega basista Tomaža Groma in japonskega tolkalca Seijira Murayame. Plošča je nastala na snemalni seansi v Clubu Creinativa v Kranju. Groma tako poleg njegovih sodelovanj v zasedbah Cpg impro, Tilt in Alzheimer trio poznamo kot organizatorja tedenske delavnice svobodne improvizacije v Španskih borcih, pa tudi ciklov koncertov in predstav Confine aperto in Neforma. Murayama se je pri nas poleg rednih nastopov na Metelkovi nenazadnje še posebej usidral z organizacijo dvodnevnega improvizatorskega festivala v začetku julija v Menzi pri koritu. Ta dva muzičarja sta tako dva od dežurnih krivcev za občutno intenzivnejše dogajanje na polju svobodne improvizacije pri nas v preteklem letu. Tako niti ni čudno, da sta se lotila skupnega ploščka - ta je bil morda celo pričakovan, saj Grom in Murayama skupaj muzicirata že kar nekaj časa, bodisi pred javnostjo bodisi brez nje. Na njem predstavita improvizacijo v petih delih, ki jih preprosto naslovita Ena, Dva, Tri, Štiri in Pet. Plošča se začne s Seijirotovim udarcem po snareu in se nadaljuje s konstantno proizvodnjo šuma, ki je zanj že kar značilna. A pričakovanje, da se bo Seijiro prepustil linearnemu šumenju, kot smo ga pri njem že velikokrat slišali, se pravzaprav hitro razblini, sprva z Gromovo zvočno nadgradnjo šumenja nato pa s hitro spreobrnitvijo Seijira v nestrukturirano tokljanje in škripanje. Gromovi popačeni basovski toni občasno spodbudijo Seijira h glasnemu ropotu. Drugi kos muzike se ravno tako začne v ravni kombinaciji šuma bobnov in škripa basovskega loka, ki se nato prevesi iz konstantnih zvokov v njihovo repeticijo. Komaj slišen basovski šum se prevesi v nežne visoke frekvence v tretjem komadu, v katerem dvojica začne graditi dolge cvileče tone v večplastno harmonsko strukturo. Avtorico te recenzije je njun način nadgrajevanja zvokov in dinamike povsem nehote spomnil na pred kratkim odviti improvizatorski koncert Jeana-Luca Guionneta na orglah. Duo podobno zaobjame precejšnjo širino zvokov in jo nadgrajuje in klesti z različnimi frekvencami in občasnimi spremembami barv. Tretji kos muzike zaokrožita z nežnim in visokim zvokom, enako kot sta ga začela. Improvizacija dvojice je raznolika, občasno si instrumentalista kontrastirata, a v povprečju gradita skupno dinamiko. Značaj improvizacije se v drugi polovici plošče nekoliko spremeni, ko se muzičarja lotita kombinacije piljenja in tokljanja s skoraj humorističnim prizvokom, čemur se za trenutek pridruži celo glas. Za konec se improvizacije polotita melodično, v skoraj jazzovski kombinaciji metlic in atonalnega basa, ampak jo kmalu razgradita v čudaško razbijanje in blodenje. Tri četrt ure raznolikega in presenetljivega muziciranja se zaključi v živahni in pisani maniri, muzičarja pa pokažeta, da obvladata skoraj neskončno širino zvokov svojih inštrumentov in še česa. Plošček se zaradi intenzivnosti morda zdi celo nekoliko kratek, morda pa tudi zato, ker pusti vtis, da je ta posnetek samo drobec v neskončni količini možnih improvizacijskih zapletov in razpletov. Vsekakor pa je posnetek, ki vabi k ponovnemu poslušanju in odkrivanju novih nians raziskovanja zvoka dvojice in vzbuja zanimanje za njegovo potencialno nadaljnje raziskovanje.

Maja Matić, radiostudent

'Back to work with a decidedly resigned sigh today and sure enough it took about half an hour for me to all but forget the lovely break I had last week. Ah well, you’ve had a week without my moaning, the holiday is over for all of us. So as promised I wanted to do a bit of a first for these pages tonight and review an album that has already been reviewed here. Last week for his guest post Simon Reynell wrote about Neptretrganost, a CDr jointly released by Zavod Sploh in conjunction with the L’innomable label by the Slovenian/Japanese, Double bass/percussion duo of Tomaz Grom and Seijiro Murayama. Grom was one half of the TILT group that released a disc on L’innomable a couple of years back, while Murayama currently seems to be appearing on a new CD every other week. Simon’s review of the CD intrigued me in that it raised the age old questions about the importance of instrumental craftsmanship, but also because he compared the CD to Bestiaries, the recent Cathnor release by Patrick Farmer and Dom Lash, another all acoustic bass/percussion disc. He made the point that while technological advances have changed improvised music in recent years, and while these developments are crucial for the continued growth of the music, they aren’t always necessary. Acoustic instrumentation can still produce inventive, forward thinking music. At the risk of being accused of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” tactics I would suggest that the new batch of releases on Simon’s own label point us to this (seemingly obvious to me) conclusion. Anyway, Neptretrganost is a really nice CD, a deceptively varied album of five tracks that range between the near-silent textural whispers that can be found on Bestiaries to a groaning, droning bowed work-out to the thoroughly talkative, busy and sprightly closing track. The skill of the musicians is indeed very clear throughout here. Although both use only very simple means for creating their sounds they conjure up quite an array of styles and sounds, with Murayama’s trademark scrapes and brushing easy to pick out, but used at different intensities throughout, Grom shifting from pizzicato plucking and clicking to rich bowed tones via grey hissing textures and jazzy fingerpicked semi-melodies. Irrespective of the syles used, or the skill of the musicians though, this CD, across all five of its tracks is, for me, all about the communication, the public conversation between these two musicians, who i am guessing may have struggled to communicate easy through conventional language, but sound incredibly close and intertwined here. It would be a gross generalisation to do so, but you could at a push say that the music moves from quieter, more textural areas early on the disc to the more jazzy rough and tumble of the closing section. The music then seems to run parallel to how a conventional relationship between two people might progress, beginning quite tentatively, serious, thoughtful, weighing each other up, before eventually coming to the flowing, humorous banter of the later stages. It almost feels as if trust grows between the two musicians as the disc progresses and things relax and blossom into not necessarily better music, but certainly more fluid and unrestrained. I’ll probably now find out that the last track was recorded a few days before the earlier pieces, such is my record with this kind of thing, but nevertheless this is how I hear the music’s progression. One of the simplest, perhaps purist forms of enjoyment to be found in group improvised music is the direct interaction between the two or more personalities playing. The instrumentation doesn’t really matter here. Even if we don’t like the sounds produced we can still follow the interplay, the conversation, the ways the musicians found to respond to the actions of one another. This is what Neptretrganost is all about for me, no concern for particular styles or aesthetics, just for the immediate discourse at the time and place of the recording. When this is in place, and the musicians work together as they do here, I really don’t care what they are playing.'

Richard Pinnell, Watchful Ear

Eden najbolj dejavnih, pa tudi najbolj zanimivih domačih improvizatorjev z Nepretrganostjo obeležuje sodelovanje s priznanim japonskim kreativcem, ki že trideset let širi vlogo tolkal v svobodnjaških improviziranih muzikah. Z mikrotonalnim raziskovanjem dvojec močno preseže konvencionalni besednjak kontrabasa in tolkal ter pokrije široko zvočno paleto, ki se zajeda v redukcionizme na eni in zgoščeno teksturiranje na drugi strani. Preplet intenzivnih (naključnih in repetitivnih) ritmičnih nizov in tonalno bogatega dronanja ponudi razgibano, domišljeno, zvedavo svobodnjaško izkušnjo, s katero glasbenika upravičita svoj renome. Če ste ju te dni zamudili na domačih koncertnih odrih, pa se nova priložnost ponuja že konec meseca na letošnji Sajeti.

Goran Kompoš, Mladina

Two discs of improvised music here. On the first we find a duo, of Seijiro Murayama on percussion and one Tomaz Grom on doublebass. This is a live recording from December last year and we find them in an incredible relaxed mood. Its a recording that has a strange sort of jazz undercurrent, especially in the track 'Pet', where the bass is being slapped and the percussion rolls. But of course its not real jazz and its also the end of the release. The four pieces that preceded 'Pet' show them in a true love of their instruments partly as resonating boxes, partly as real instruments, in an excursion to examine the tonal qualities of the instruments. Lots of silence in between music and lots of music in between silence. A refined disc. The quintet, with a base in Berlin and Buenos Aires came together in 2004 at the Goethe Institut, and consists of the Berlin connection of Andrea Neumann (inside piano) and Robin Hayward (tuba), in the middle Lucio Capece (soprano saxophone and bass clarinet), who lives in Berlin but is from Buenos Aires, where he no doubt knew Sergio Merce (tenor saxophone and electronics) and Gabrial Paiuk (piano). One piece, forty three minutes. But it sounds like many pieces, by one man and lasting an entire lifetime. That last remark is not something negative. The music is filled with loads of silence and carefully placing of sounds. Its not always easy to recognize a single player in here (tuba? where?), but there are times of concentrated playing together, followed by gaps of silence or near silence. Just like the Grom/Murayama release a work that has a lot of silent beauty in it. Another disc of great refined music, with so many players and yet so much space. Excellent.

Frans De Waard - Vital Weekly

En compagnie de Tomaž Grom, contrebassiste slovène inquiet de techniques instrumentales étendues, Seijiro Murayama improvisait l'année dernière cinq pièces consignées sur Nepretrganost. A Kranj, le percussionniste redisait donc son intérêt pour les échanges faits autant de concentration que d'écoute et allant d'expressions mesurées en imprécations accoucheuses d'atmosphères. A côté de Murayama, Grom démontre d'un archet timide et puis prend ses distances : en périphérie instrumentale, le contrebassiste oppose aux gestes endurants de son partenaire des bruits parallèles et des chants parasites. A son habitude, Murayama agit et quelques fois réagit : ayant décidé de la ligne du parti improvisé en amateur de drone, il pourra donner de la voix et lever d'inattendus et beaux reliefs. L'ensemble, délicat, est sans arrêt confronté à la possibilité d'un silence. De cette possibilité qui tient souvent lieu de promesse, Nepretrganost, comme beaucoup d'enregistrements récents de Murayama, profite sans arrêt.

Guillaume Belhomme

Tomaž Grom/Seijiro Murayama - Nepretrganost (i'Innomable/Sploh) Bass and percussion (Grom is new to me), in a set of five pieces that, as does a lot of music these days it seems to me, straddle the efi/eai divide, sometimes effectively, always ably, but occasionally a bit dry. Needless to say, extended technique is foregrounded, though one never quite loses the notion that Grom is wielding a string bass. The second track is a good study in contrasting rhythms and textures, a kind of subtle beat ricocheting between instruments and modes of attack. But track three, "Tri", is my favorite, a keening drone piece with great textural richness and forward momentum, beautifully played and conceived. Other cuts get overly scratchy/scrabbling for my taste though, of course, efi aficionados will find it right up their alley. A mixed bag, for me, but I'd be interested to hear more.

Brian Olewnick, Just Outside

Že dalj časa trajajoče sodelovanje med Tomažem Gromom in japonskim tolkalcem Seijiro Murayamo je naplavilo album, ki pritegne s kombinacijo domiselnosti in virtuoznosti. Pet poglavij, pet raznolikih zvočnih podob, improviziranih poigravanj kontrabasa in tolkal ni namenjeno širši publiki. Glasbeni sladokusci pa bodo v njih lahko odkrili neverjetno široke, na trenutke se zdi, da že kar brezmejne možnosti iskanja sozvočij v prepletanju šuma, ropota, tolkljanja, razbijanja, škripanja in podobnih zvokov. Preredki izleti v povsem spodobno melodično džeziranje popestrijo strukturo skladb, ki temelji na razgibani dinamiki in večplastnih harmonijah. Ocena: 4

Dušan Jesih