‘Transit Check’ is the latest release from fledgling label Cram, and contains two solo viola improvisations by Benedict Taylor. Free of sparring partners, Taylor here indulges in longer, more fluid lines than in his work with Alex Ward and Daniel Thompson, there are even some repetitive blues-like squalls here, as if he is imitating an electric guitar freak-out. There is an excellent use of space and silence throughout; he splits the activity into sudden bursts, like short enclosed chapters within a wider structure. He employs a wide range of textures: whistling glass, harsh scratches, dense sonorous drones, and a buzz resembling radio static. There are soaring loops, cross-hatched scribble, and sudden wipes of high-register stabs; a creaking mess of zips and looping sweeps. A constantly inventive sound picture, in one uncanny moment a chattering ape is evoked, if only briefly. The playing sometimes sounds multi-tracked, such is its frantic multiplicity, but retains a core of sparse and reflective stillness. Taylor subjects the instrument to close examination but broadcasts the results with vigour and commitment.
The microtonal focus, dense serialism, instant action and reductive use of near-silence, position Taylor’s playing as a near-primer of New Music’s most prevalent avant-garde strategies, but tests them to destruction. This is an energetic and passionate performance, not a dry intellectual exercise, you can hear the strain and sweat involved; it occasionally resembles someone wailing on a prepared guitar. It is intensely intelligent but with an evident passion that ensures each recording is as exciting as it is cerebral.
‘Transit Check’ shows that Benedict Taylor is as fascinating in dialogue with himself as in an ensemble setting, seemingly aiming for a Total Music of the viola; a broadcasting of its every possibility. His command and curiosity is evident in every single minute of these engaging recordings.
The album can be purchased here.