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Random Touch: Duologue/A Box and a Word

Random Touch is the result of the long relationship dating back to 1978 between James Day on electronics and keyboards and Chris Brown on drums and programming. These two releases bring the collaborators' studio output into double figures if you count the DVD issued with the last album. In Duologues, Chris is twinned with renowned experimental guitarist Scott Hamilll, but the pair commence in rather typical Random Touch vein with an eerie atmospheric electronic and percussive soundscape. However things get more interesting on "some where" with strangely distorted vocals and syringes of synths squirting into the stomping bass drum and mixed percussion. "Chit-chat" uses distorted guitars and a subdued drumming mix while the rather longer piece "After" is a nervous tick of a track, incorporating off-beat percussion and a 'drowning' effect on Scott's guitar over an occasional juddering bass line.

Chris' drum production has always had a trademark to it of being relatively understated whilst involving quite complex structures. Recording on this album gives the impression of them being played from another room, in extreme cases almost as an incidental backdrop to the guitar recording. The effect is to separate the two contributions in space while providing that space for each contributor to develop an understanding of each other's input in this improvised set.

Vibrant oscillating rhythms and cymbal splashes are the features of "Rooted Tendril" whilst the equally short but very effective "Suitable time" continues the use of oscillating volumes but in a muddy and electronically squeezed environment. "Swivelling Down" has one bright percussive point pronounced from the subdued drum arrangement chipping into the spiralling, twisted guitar effect creating a popping, air-pressure impact. The penultimate offering stretches out a little more with a kind of tattoo building on the drums while the buzzing of Scott's guitar sears like a bee around a sweating lumberjack. The closing number "A favourable direction" commences with a comical bit of off the peg poetry and moves slowly across a shifting desert sand of sounds which build and echo, form and dissolve against a zephyr of talking drums.

Scott is also present, along with electronics wizard James Day, in A box and a word, the second of the releases. Featuring 16 short improvisations and composed elements in classic Random Touch territory, the opening pieces set the scene for the album. The first is a minimalist arrangement of lazy atmospheric washes pricked by meandering guitar and percussion. The second piece is more aggressive and accessible while the third takes off on a mix of bell-tree and dissonant guitar chords reverting to something resembling a standard beat toward the end before morphing back to the original proposition. Elsewhere, there are effective ambient moments such as "Dancing in Moonlight" and "Grass beneath our feet" and more intricate composed material.

"The altar boy and the priest" is one of two longer compositions (although they could be impros, these two guys know each other so well now) which dominate the central part of the album. It features a narrative on the Catholic Churches recent confessions and is accompanied by a sinister atmosphere, percussive punches and weeping guitar effects. "Steady Flux" seems to follow the idea on with Chris' eerie singing and pacey drum fills surrounding the jumpy guitar and piano/synth layers. Possibly the most 'rocky' work on the album, although "Climbing the Tower" uses appropriately rising scales and noise which almost evokes someone driving spikes into a building! Several of the later tracks feature chatty background discourses on a number of subjects, the most effective of which is on the percussive melee of "Oh how we wonder why" where the tape is reversed at one point.

Track Listing
1. Nestle
2. Some where
3. Chit chat
4. After
5. Rooted tendril
6. Suitable time
7. A swivelling down
8. In word in tension
9. A favourable direction

A box and a word
1. Floating in a Spiral
2. Tripping So Fancy
3. On the Way
4. Dancing in Moonlight
5. Changeable Weather
6. Opera of Vaudeville
7. The Altar Boy & the Priest
8. Steady Flux (Dear X)
9. Resplendent
10. Climbing the Tower
11. Air Play
12. Oh How We Wonder Why
13. Not on a Wednesday
14. Velvety Wet
15. Grass beneath Our Feel
16. Over & Under

Added: December 4th 2008
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1861
Language: english

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