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Double bass player Joe Williamson made it to Vital Weekly before, when he was part of CD compilation dedicated to Scelsi, and several times to our
listings section. These two CDs might very well be the first proper introduction, at least for me it is. First there is 'Hoard', a solo CD with two
pieces: the title piece and the opening 'Inadvertent Attraction Of Suspicion', which is a very nervous piece of close miking the bow and the strings, which gives the music a very direct presence. Its right there, right in your face. I am not sure if that's intended but it has an almost aggressive feel to it, like a violent abstract expressionistic painting. In the title piece things are a bit more gentler, but only just a bit. Like the previous piece there is an overall
minimalist aspect to the playing, with slowly shifting patterns in a very dense way. Both pieces reminded me of the violin playing of Agencement: nervous, hectic, chaotic and yet very minimal. Franz de Waard (Vital Weekly

Williamson’s solo recording is very much in the same vein. The two long cuts feature the rough, low frequency rumble of overpressured bowing, providing a throbbing undertow that sounds at times like a straining engine—created acoustically, this is industrial music from a time before electricity. dbarbiero (AMN Reviews)

An underground tunnel, ominous subterranean rumbles, clawing scratches and clicks, nameless energies scrape and growl so begins Hoard, 41 minutes of breathless solo bass-istry by Canadian ex-pat Joe Williamson. Williamson (now residing in Stockholm) has spent more than a decade in European centres of new music and improv creativity, and it shows in the demands he makes of the listener. Long arco passages focused on minute microtonal fluctuations under-girded by low-end double stops are central to the first of the two extended pieces, "Inadvertent Attraction of Suspicion." Close attention is needed to catch the myriad nuances. Reminiscent of virtuoso Fernando Grillo's Fluvine, Hoard concentrates on sonorities and textures, not notes. As a consequence, listeners looking for melodic and rhythmic development will find themselves adrift in the hair-split salience of strings bowed, rubbed and thrummed for the sheer sensuality of their vibrational palpability. Hoard rewards deep listening. Glen Hall (exclaim.ca)

Both the portrait this Canadian doublebass player picked up in order to introduce his release and his eccentric way of playing his plumbeous instrument could suggest Joe Williamson's sound could really be considered as post-industrial: on one side a pile of scrap-iron mainly made up of a plenty of trashed appliances such as washing-machines, air conditioners, stoves, microwave ovens, an artificial mountain which can be considered as the most visible impact on landscape (not only physical, but also cultural) inherited from the agonizing consumeristic era based on serial industrial production, on the other side a musical simulacrum, the one rendered by Williamson (now residing in Stockholm), whose sound seems to be reduced to a heap of debris. The way he plays the doublebass, based on the overpressure of the bow and arguably on vertical scratching of the strings and extended dwelling on arch passages, as well as the way he recorded this 2-(very long)tracks album, whose powerful vibrations have been grabbed thanks to the placement of the microphone very close to the instrument, results into an astonishing sound, giving the idea of a perpetual shrivelling, an endless crumpling of an undefined material, whose shape can be continuosly transformed, but not perished at all. While the first anthem, wisely titled "Inadvertent Attraction of Suspicion", sounds like a vortical intertwining of nerves and rubbles, the title-track could be similar to something between a noisy grumbling and an irritating snoring. In order to appreciate this bizarre recording, forget melody and rhythm and focus on texture and sound and you will agree with me when I say Hoard could be considered as the final and very sensual result of a process, where the words "destruction" and "creation" become synonymous just in order to bow to necessity! Vito Camarretta (Chain DLK)

Ceci est le dernier post de l'année, mais également le dernier consacré à cette longue fournée de disques produits par le label portugais CS. Le dernier et un des meilleurs à mon goût. Hoard est un solo du contrebassiste canadien vivant dorénavant en Suède, Joe Williamson. Pour ceux qui ne le connaissent pas, on a déjà pu l'entendre dans le chef d'oeuvre du Free Quartett, Ballistik I-IX (aux côtés de Sven-Ake Johansson, Axel Dörner et Thomas Ankersmit), dans le trio Trapist avec Martin Siewert et Martin Brandlmayr, ainsi que tout récemment dans un autre trio avec Tony Buck et Olaf Rupp, Weird Weapons 2.

Après cette brève présentation, passons à la musique elle-même. On a deux pièces, d'environ vingt minutes chacune. Deux longues pièces en fait, car sur les deux l'archet ne s'arrête jamais, il y a constamment du son, à un volume la plupart du temps assez fort. Les deux pièces sont violentes, Joe Williamson paraît beaucoup jouer sur les cordes à vide et il se concentre principalement sur les textures, aucunement sur les notes ou les rythmes. Le son change avec la pression de l'archet surtout, pression qui est la plupart du temps beaucoup trop puissante relativement à la norme. Joe Williamson semble en vouloir aux cordes, il ne les caresse pas, on peut à peine dire qu'il les frotte, mais plutôt qu'il les malmène et les agresse avec des crins. Torture, agressivité et violence. Le son est dur, rêche, et plein d'aspérité. Car les cordes ne sont pas lisses, et ce sont leurs aspérités mêmes qui attaquent l'archet (ou s'en défendent) et surtout donnent du grain aux textures recherchées durant ces quarante minutes. Les deux pièces sont assez minimalistes, comme un bourdon qui peut ne pas bouger d'une corde durant une dizaine de minutes, mais il y a tout de même de nombreux micro-changements, qui se font selon la vitesse du frottement et la pression de l'archet. En tout cas, il s'agit d'un minimalisme à tendance harsh, car les textures sont denses et agressives la plupart du temps, et elles demandent une disponibilité surtout nerveuse assez entière. Ceci-dit, la palette des textures est assez large et variée pour retenir l'attention tout du long lorsqu'on accepte de pénétrer cet univers assez violent et torturé.

Cette richesse dans les couleurs doit certainement beaucoup à l'enregistrement de David Stäckenas qui a du mettre le micro le plus près possible de la basse, car toutes les aspérités du timbre sont présentes, mais également le grain même de l'archet, tout comme la dureté du cordier. Un enregistrement très près d'une contrebasse malmenée par un musicien violent qui désaccorde sa corde la plus grave afin d'accéder à des extrêmes peu entendues, et qui en même temps frotte le plus fort qu'il puisse son archet jusqu'à ce qu'il arrive à ces textures grasses, rugueuses, nerveuses, denses et envoutantes que nous retrouvons extrêmement souvent durant Hoard.

On est très loin du solo de Duboc par exemple (qui ne jouait que sur le cordier), mais Williamson explore aussi une technique de jeu particulière pour arriver dans ce solo vraiment réussi à la constitution de textures exceptionnelles et inouïes pour cet instrument. D'un côté c'est nerveux, agressif et bruyant, mais de l'autre, c'est fin, précis, original et brillant. Recommandé! Hjulien (Improv Sphere)

I don’t know if Joe is actually a hoard, but some people may feel this doublebass solo CD sounds like someone is tossing stuff around in a huge heap of garbage. Willamson shakes his bass strings like a madman on Hoard. Two solos, 23 and 18 minutes. Two deployments of virtuoso stamina, almost exclusively in the subwoofing range. I even wondered at some point if he was using a bow or a saw. Very impressive. And very loud. François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

I realised at the weekend, while sat listening to Dominic Lash play at close quarters, that I really like the sound of the double bass. Alongside the cello it may well be my favourite ‘standard’ instrument. Tonight’s review CD is a recent solo release on the Creative Sources label by the Canadian ex-pat bassist Joe Williamson named Hoard. Although he spent quite a bit of time in London before moving on to his current home in Stockholm, I have somehow never managed to catch Williamson live, and I don’t think I have anything by him on CD, so this release is my first exposure to his music, and I rather like it. The disc contains two lengthy improvisations, neither of which is easy to categorise, which can only be a good thing.

The first track, Inadvertent attraction of suspicion clocks in at a little less than twenty-four minutes and consists of a constant, unbroken stream of deep, grinding abrasions of various types. The resulting music is deeply textured, made up of layers of activity, often giving the (incorrect) impression that some kind of multitracking could be at work here, but everything is played live, with just a great deal of skill and dexterity in use to create so much deep, dark colour at any one time. The pieces are very simple, and any description I give of them can’t really do them justice, as while essentially Williamson is just bowing firmly here, so strings are pushed to the limits and often ground against the wooden parts of the bass, and contact is made with other parts of the instrument’s body as well, often at the same time to create the effect of multiple events happening simultaneously. The beauty of this music is all in its density. There is nothing light or airy here, no high pitches or smooth tones, just grating, groaning rasps, roars and buzzes piled up on one another with no space in between. The dark, richly grained wood of a bass springs to mind, worn in places, showing its age and yet full of character and detail. This CD is all about the bass, its character, voice, and its potential.

The second, title track follows in similar suit, perhaps with a little more variety and a slightly more broken up structure to the piece, but that deeply seated, earthy investigation of the bass’ most gritty, dusty corners is still there. It feels like angry music, the outpourings made through gritted teeth, straining, stretching, forcefully pushing out these deeply abrasive sounds. Williamson generally steers clear of anything obviously musical, rhythmic or melodic, focussing entirely on texture and how when layered such sounds can take on a character that feels abstracted from the instrument that generated them, the listener’s attention attuned to the slight differences between sounds rather than following any sense of narrative progression. Hoard is a really nice listen, a thoroughly focussed exploration of what could at first seem a somewhat limited instrument, particularly when only played with a bow, without any plucking of strings. The album doesn’t feel like it belongs to any particular end of improvisation’s wide stylistic spectrum and feels thoroughly individual and personal to Williamson. If a double bass looks and feels substantial, then this music follows suit, deep, bodily and perhaps somewhat masculine in its grainy voice. Good stuff. Richard Pinnell (The Watchful Ear)

O contrabaixista canadiano Joe Williamson já vive há mais de uma década nas cidades europeias (agora reside em Estocolmo). Quando esteve baseado em Berlim e Londres trabalhou com Han Bennink, Steve Beresford e Eugene Chadbourne, tudo um pouco no círculo do ICP. Editou também recentemente um magnífico álbum em trio, na Creative Sources, com Olaf Rupp e Tony Buck. A audição deste trabalho a solo, em improvisação total, não é uma tarefa fácil para quem procure encontrar e seguir referências melódicas e rítmicas. Exige concentração para apanhar a míriade de detalhes que nos são oferecidos.
Na maior parte do tempo da sua improvisação procura trabalhar sobre texturas e sonoridades e não em notas. Transmite-nos uma sensação de caos organizado (por vezes muito enérgico e quase mesmo agressivo) e de minimalismo. Quem já tenha ouvido a solo os contrabaixistas Fernando Grillo, ou o recentemente falecido Stefano Scodanibbio, sabe do que estou a falar.
A execução centra-se na pesquisa de flutuações de microtonalidade, no modo de ataque das cordas (sobretudo com arco, frequentemente usado em sobrepressão) e no puro gozo do prazer táctil e das vibrações audíveis (amar o instrumento). O trabalho compõe-se de duas peças, Inadvertent Attraction of Suspicion e Hoard. A primeira é tocada verdadeiramenyte na nossa face, quase com violência e nervosismo. Isso resulta em parte do uso de close miking. O resultado é como que um quadro expressionista pintado com agressividade. Na segunda peça, embora se mantenha a densidade de execução, a sensação é de uma maior gentileza e em que os padrões evoluem de um modo mais lento. O prazer na audição é enorme. Como que somos transportados num sono algo hipnótico para paisagens sonoras desconhecidas, ora expressionistas ora minimalistas. Um trabalho onde Williamson exibe com crueza, elegância e sinceridade todo o seu virtuosismo. José Pessoa Jazz.pt)

É Joe Williamson quem se apresenta a solo no arrepiante "Hoard". Regra geral recorrendo ao arco, incide o seu trabalho sobre a criação de harmónicos e microtons. Fá-lo sem se preocupar com os paradigmas clássicos da beleza, pelo que nem sempre é fácil ouvir este disco. Há um lado Scodanibbio nestes procedimentos, mas isso se o contrabaixista italiano tivesse alinhado pelos princípios estéticos da arte bruta. O que ouvimos é, sem dúvida, improvisado, mas pouca ligação tem com o "mainstream" da música improvisada, "new school" incluída. É outra coisa, muito pessoal, e por isso mesmo ainda mais cativante. Transcrever o que aqui está para o papel seria uma tarefa hercúlea, e muito provavelmente condenada ao insucesso, pois Williamson trabalha directamente com os sons, não com notas. Rui Eduardo Paes

Il existe beaucoup de solos improvisés à la contrebasse. Hoard date de juin 2010 et, malgré les antécédents, se fait remarquer : accrocheur, endurant voire radical, le voici attachant. Joe Williamson y appuie, frotte, astique, balance ou scie, et, malgré quelques baisses de régime (et les mêmes antécédents), nous arrache la promesse d’y revenir. Guillaume Belhomme (Le Son du Grisli)

Joe Williamson a travaillé avec le violoniste Jon Rose et ce n’est sans doute pas étranger aux péoccupations de Hoard, son nouvel album solo de contrebasse. Jouée d’une traite sans discontinuer, Hoard se révèle une mise en abîme des frottements de l’archet qui descendent vers les graves de moins en moins mobiles en diminuant insensiblement le mouvement jusqu’au très ralenti au fil des minutes. Un concept album sur la réitération infinie du geste et son ralentissement imperceptible. Impressionnant ! L’archet presse les cordes de manière à produire des sons sourds, « salis » sans le moindre vibrato accentuant ainsi un sentiment d’oppression et de malaise. A la 38ème minute, on s’attend à ce que cela s’arrête, mais lorsque ce sentiment se met à poindre, les frottements se raniment et se muent en un jeu délicat qui sollicite les harmoniques sul ponticello. Quarante minutes de patience … grave pour une vibration de plus en plus intime, un fil de son imperceptible qui s’échappe dans le silence. Un excellent concert. Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg (Orynx-improv'andsounds)

What a boring role the stringed bass is (was) often relegated to! For so many years, it served merely to fill up space and provide a root, or a pedal point, or just, "Hey, can you double the cello line? Okay, thanks." That's like moderately tranquilizing an elephant and telling him "do not make a lot of noise or smash things when you walk". In a great deal of modern rock, bassists aren't heard or noticed until they aren't there (subtract the bass guitar from Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins etc. for some examples). When placed in a solo situation, as is the case with Canadian born / Stockholm transplant Joe Williamson and contemporaries such as Christian Weber and Jason Roebke, you lament how regularly misused this incredibly versatile, emotive and powerful the instrument is.

Being an honorary devotee of Giacinto Scelsi (he collaborated with Rhodri Davies and Stefano Tedesco on the album Lontano — Homage to Giacinto Scelsi), Williamson's Hoard draws immediate comparisons, as the two works here resonate (literally) with the same methodology of the Italian composer. On the 24-minute "Inadvertent Attraction of Suspicion", he focuses on stifled tones, squeezing them to the last until other sonic materials ooze forth (others have likened this Tibetan-inspired style to acquiring the "ambient halo" where performers fling brass and bells around a tonic). However, whereas Scelsi's orchestral oeuvre frequently resembles enormous, neutral, numb clouds, the lure of Hoard is the rhythmic and textural diversity the listener receives due to the stellar, intimate production (cheers to Peter Nylander and David Stackenäs for the mix and recording). Every thump, click, pluck, smack, pull, scrape is heard as it was meant to be: loud and present. Each drag of the bow reveals myriad, hypnotic micro-patterns which, coupled with the size of the instrument, booms onward as a war machine.

On the title track, Williamson begins with a less aggressive attack, allowing a small series of pitches ring through (i.e. D# against E, a perfect fourth of D# against A, to C#, C# against F#, sporadically alternating octaves), though still using a rough, grainy aesthetic where bow length dictates swaying downbeats. Near the half-way mark, he hikes his speed and tactile pressure for several minutes until bursting, then applying a similar fervor to delicate harmonics and closing with an abrupt whisper.

Once upon a time in 1959, Charlie Haden played with Ornette Coleman at the Five Spot. On one occasion, it's rumored that, eyes closed and body pressed against his instrument, he didn't notice someone approach the stage and place an ear to the f-hole. When Coleman looked up, he asked the identity of this weirdo, who turned out to be Leonard Bernstein; the celebrated conductor / composer was so possessed by the sound of the instrument that he had to touch it. While listening to Hoard, you feel the same attraction as the instrument grips your shoulders and pulls you along according to its whim. In the words of one bassist whose playing is never suppressed, "Play every note like it's your last" (Flea). And that's exactly what Williamson does. Dave Madden (The Squidco Ear)