CD Review: Outhouse - Straw, Sticks & Bricks



Outhouse Straw, Sticks & Bricks
(Babel BDV1190, CD Review by Chris Parker


Since emerging from their practice-room (a garden shed that gave them their name) six years ago, Outhouse have firmly settled on a distinctive sound: a two-horn front line jostling and jousting over a rumbustious rhythm section, playing music that moves easily and naturally between freedom and structure, grooves and urgent improvised scrabbles, fierce no-holds-barred passages and gentle crooning.

Ever on the lookout for fresh approaches that might revitalise said music, they collaborated with Gambian Wolof percussionists for their last recorded project, and on this, their third album, they are joined by resourceful Icelandic guitarist Hilmar Jensson, who might be familiar to some courtesy of his recent London visits with New York drummer Jim Black's band AlasNoAxis, or his own band TYFT. He proves a highly sympathetic collaborator, his experience with music that drifts in and out of time, and relies for its effect as much on textural and dynamic variation as on straightforward propulsiveness, enabling him to fit in perfectly.

Outhouse's material is all in-band originals, the bulk of it written by tenor player/clarinettist Robin Fincker, but the odd piece also provided by fellow tenorist Tom Challenger, drummer Dave Smith or simply collectively improvised by them with bassist Johnny Brierley.

Fincker himself feels that the band's music has become 'stronger and deeper' over the years, and this robust but clearly carefully arranged album, on which the two-horn front line is tellingly complemented by the mercurial Jensson (who is squeezing out Frisell-like phrases one minute, rocking out the next, and occasionally interspersing all this with subtle electronic noises and textures) proves him correct on all of its nine tracks.

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