grain |cs074








































[...] Neil Davidson, who plays a favorite instrument of mine, the acoustic guitar. It wasn't until the third piece before I this out, as the first two were rather drone related pieces of playing whatever sound through the body of the guitar and picking them up before throwing it around. Or perhaps the playing of ventilators against the strings to create a wealth of overtones. In 'Across' both this as well as rudimentary improvised playing exist. Quite a loud beast. Frans de Waard (Vital)

Davidson belongs to the small phalanx of explorers of the acoustic guitar's resonant power. Except for a more improvisational track, "Grain" is for its large part made of staticity - but one that's full of rust and corrosiveness, even if the effect of these sounds often causes Alvin Lucieresque bendings of the auricular membrane. Fermented harmonics are born from a continuous oscillations of the strings, which the guitarist obtains most probably through an eBow or other mechanical devices. Some of the rugged vibrations elicited by Davidson have a refreshingly intoxicating quality that gains an immediate grip on the skull, as if a progressively stronger clutch established a dominance by canceling any extraneous observation in order to introduce a pleasurable pain within the surrounding mass of hypnotic recurrences. We can also perceive the genuineness of the wood, which throbs sympathetically with the rest, contributing to the whole sonority with disguised shades that will be mostly appreciated by those who are more familiar with cuddling the same instrument (the pulse coming out of an acoustic guitar pressed against the chest is indeed akin to an erotic experience). In its spartan constitution, "Grain" offers several intense moments in about 41 minutes of seriously focused experimentation. Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)

If Phill Niblock's ever up in Glasgow and stuck for a guitarist to perform Guitar Too, For Four he could always give Neil Davidson a call, because there's some serious eBow droning going on here, and very pleasant it is too, if that's your cup of tea (i.e. if your collection already includes several Ambarchis, Lichts and Torals). It's not all stasis though – not that the drones Davidson lays down on tracks like "Incidence" and "Across" are ever really static: there's a lot happening on the micro-level if you take the time to listen carefully – on "Cast" his playing is as fragile and spiky as Tetuzi Akiyama. That said, the attention sometimes wanders, if you let it. Maybe that's part of the plan.. For myself, I have a slight preference for Davidson's earlier duo outing Flapjack on FMR with Raymond MacDonald. But judge for yourself. Dan Warburton (Paris Transatlantic)

Instrumentem, którym posluguje sie Davidson jest gitara akustyczna. Jej rezonujace struny, których drgania wymusza za pomoca elektronicznego smyczka, nieustannie szemrza i brzecza, zapelniajac przestrzen wolno wybrzmiewajacymi tonami. W niektórych momentach wibracjom strun towarzysza basy rezonujacego drewna, odrobine urozmaicajace jezyk sonorystyczny, którym Davidson sie posluguje. Muzyka powstaje niespiesznie i - za wyjatkiem "Cast", w którym dominuje ascetyczna improwizacja w duchu Tetuzi Akiyamy - dzieje sie wewnatrz niezbyt szerokiego spektrum dzwieków, jednak te swoiste ograniczenia z nawiazka rekompensowane sa przez jej szorstkosc i intensywnosc. Zawiesiste drony swa kostropatoscia rania glosniki, statyczne na pozór dzwieki oscyluja miedzy mrocznym quasiambientowego tlem, a metalicznym seminoise'owym atakiem, zachwycajac swym ulomnym pieknem. Tadeusz Kosiek (Gaz-Eta)

This is the second solo guitar cd in a row released by Creative Sources, and it really hasn't much in common with Irazoki's "Olatuetan", except for the sparse chord plucking of the third track, "Cast", which could betray a common passion for Derek Bailey. The rest is a minimal drone affair, an quite a loud one at that. Young Glasgow-based improviser Davidson probably uses e-bows or motors to play his instrument of choice, exploiting its resonance box to create these semi-static pieces which seem to spring directly from an unbearable tension of metal, wood and air. Dan Warburton has mentioned Phill Niblock and Oren Ambarchi as possible references; I would add David Maranha's equally impenetrable "Piano suspenso" to the list, and heartily recommend this cd to fans of heavyweight static sounds. Eugenio Maggi (Chain DLK) 

Time was that Portugal was England's oldest ally, but there's a developing relationship between some of Glasgow's most distinctive improvisers and the Trem Azul axis in Lisbon. Davidson's techniques and treatments mean that, but for some busted-zither jangles here and there, it's difficult to tell that acoustic guitar was the instrument involved. Instead, huge, jangling clusters, near-subliminal overtones, and on the closing 'Escarpment', a hint of bagpipe tonalities. That and the opening 'Marked' contain the meat of the set. The earlier piece moves to exhausted stasis and then recovers its momentum. Davidson is an extraordinary talent; pity there's no one at home bold enough to put out stuff like this. Brian Morton (Wire)

Textural snapshots exploring the peripheral tone colour and behaviour of strings died through resonators and variously excited, presented in extended canvases of minimal if scientific-microscopic design with a greater emphasis on quality than gesture. Pedro Lopez (Modisti)

Back doing regular work hours today after a weird and decentred few days during which I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Getting home from work at midnight may not be many people’s idea of normal, but for me at least it is. Coming home on the train tonight was nice, relaxing and without stress, playing Scrabble on my iPhone (my latest worthless addiction) and listening to the gentle vibrations of Neil Davidson’s 2006 solo release on Creative Sources. The disc is the latest in a longish line of experimental/improv releases named Grain (OK, so I can think of three others, can anyone else name them?) Neil very kindly sent me a few more of his releases recently, and so the first couple of Iorram CDr discs await my attention here, as does the very new Creative Sources disc Fower, which sees Davidson in the company of Ernesto and Guilherme Rodrigues alongside Hernani Faustino. I also spotted he has a free download duo recorded this year with Jez riley French available at the ever reliable Compost and Height online archive. I’ve yet to hear that one either, but will try and listen to all, and write about each, at some point this week. This evening though I have just concentrated on Grain.
Neil Davidson is a Glasgow based guitarist (usually acoustic guitar) that is capable of playing in a variety of styles, from the busy, talkative music of some of his Iorram releases, or his work with the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, through to the more minimal, concentrated work such as that which appears on this album. The majority of Grain centres around the use of extended drone sounds. The six pieces here each use the acoustic, natural potential of the guitar to the full, most often vibrating parts of the instrument to varying degrees to create simple, but engaging continual sounds made up of many tiny details. The first piece, named Marked is a nice opening example. For the first five minutes of the track (and almost exactly five minutes too, suggesting maybe a degree of composition here?) we hear a rattling, brittle sound as something metallic vibrates unevenly against something else. This grainy (yes that’s the right word) sound is backed up by a continuous tone buried somewhere behind, and continues without any dramatic change, the interest coming from the detail in the sound. Paying close attention at any one point is a bit like marvelling at a blemish in a piece of wood, interesting in its own right, but also just one part of a larger whole. After five minutes the metallic sound falls away and just a soft continuous tone remains, occasionally coloured by other brief sounds emanating from the body of the instrument, but essentially just the single tone hangs in the air, quietly. Coming after the more active music before, this passage of sound feels like a calm distillation of what preceded it, and as it lasts five minutes, with the occasional sound of distant passing cars and other external sounds audible its effect is restful and gently soporific. The second track, Incidence follows a similar course, beginning with a bristling, tinny excitation of the strings before slowly simplifying to a single, heavy, cloying tone that remains present throughout, with little occasional, unidentifiable sounds joining it every so often, maybe even sounds from the room in which the piece was recorded.
The third track, named Cast is a different affair. Here the use of the drone is put aside and the guitar is played in a slightly more familiar manner, plucked notes and scraped strings in a kind of like Derek Bailey if he was ever in a spacious, textural mood. Little clusters of notes and seemingly squeezed, forced sounds abound here in a lovely little five minute piece that works all the better for being sandwiched between the more drone based tracks, and reminds the listener of the other side of Davidson’s musical ability. The expressive qualities of Cast are immediately followed by a soft, low tone at the start of Across. This gradually blossoms out into a fidgety, whirring trail of sound as (presumably) electric fans are added to the eBows I am assuming are used to create the majority of the drones here. The piece then slowly breaks back down to a single, slowly throbbing hollow moan that is brought to an end when the body of the guitar is hit hard. The fifth track is called Moot and contains more continuous sound, but here the sound undulates fequently in intensity and pitch as presumably Davidson adjusts something physical around the guitar. This piece I am less fond of (yeah I am picky about my drones!) mainly because it sounds a little more contrived than the other pieces, less a case of natural phenomena allowed to take their own shape than the other pieces. At only two and a half minutes in length the diversion is only brief however. Escarpment, the final track on the album begins with a hard, continual burst that sounds like someone left a ringing alarm clock inside a wooden box. This runs unabeted for some three minutes before something crashes against the body of the guitar, disrupting the ringing sound momentarily, and slightly changing its onwards course. This happens again a couple of minutes later (the divisions in the sound do seem carefully timed) and although the constant buzzing sound continues onwards it is changed slightly again. The nature of this sound changes gradually as it goes about its way, joined later by a creaking, straining sound here and there. The piece sounds as if something (a fan?) has been placed on the body of the guitar that rattles and vibrates on its own, slowly moving through its own momentum across the instrument, its resultant sound changing as it comes in contact with different parts. Intervention from Davidson is probably there as well, but the way the sound changes slowly suggests that natural forces had at least some part in how the music turned out.
The charm of Grain, and the element that raises it above your average drone-based album is in its use of small, acoustic detail to make up the greater whole. As a piece of beautifully formed wood is made up of a deep, unevenly layered grain, so also is this music. On the surface the music is simple, minimal and unadorned. Closer listening down into the music, taking an aural cross section at any one point reveals a detailed acoustic delicacy. The album shows clearly how much understanding and control Davidson has over his instrument. The music sounds like the refined results of years of experiment, simple yet cleverly done. Grain is a nice album that shows off the other side of Neil Davidson’s playing well. I’m not sure I have heard him use these techniques in a collaborative setting before, but maybe the remaining little pile of releases here may correct that. My bet would be on the recording with Jez riley French maybe following in a similar vein. Looking forward to finding out. Richard Pinnell (The Watchful Ear)

A couple of winters ago AMM's Keith Rowe held a series of workshops and a concert with the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra. Rowe's provocative statements caused some divisions of opinion, to say the least (for example, to a saxophonist: "The saxophone is an instrument in crisis"!). For some GIO members, a meeting with Rowe was ideal and Neil Davidson was certainly one of those. Neil's ideas of sound generation from the guitar challenge perceptions of what that instrument is and what it can do. For a good deal of the time, you'd be hard pressed to identify a guitar as the instrument being played on Grain, yet Davidson pulls off what could descend into an academic exercise in a highly involving, perhaps enveloping, way. Oh - and although his approach shares something with Rowe's, Neil does not sound like a copyist, so that's another plus for this album. JC (Boa Melody Bar)