N.E.W. - Motion
(Dancing Wayang. DWR008. Vinyl LP review by Geoff Winston)
Raw, rampant and restless, the rocket-fuelled, improvising power trio of Steve Noble, John Edwards and Alex Ward, who go under the acronym, N.E.W., gives no quarter on 'Motion', the vinyl-only, limited edition release from Anna Tjan's uniquely adventurous Dancing Wayang records.
N.E.W. make their mark with economy, style and inspired confidence. Arguably the most formidable and flexible percussion/bass combination in British improv/jazz, Noble and Edwards have made their indelible mark on numerous live performances in the far-flung corners of Dalston and abroad. The youngster in the team, Alex Ward (as Thurston Moore casts him in his thoughtful liner notes musing on the nature of improvisation), revels in his deviant excursion on electric guitar, the complement to his reputation as the foremost avant-clarinettist on London's improv/jazz scene.
The album's careful, crisp production captures the essential live quality of their studio performance with remarkable fidelity, just like an old-fashioned vinyl first pressing is meant to - it just jumps out of the speakers, every touch, bump, beat and screech.
The balance between the three protagonists is infused with intuitive finesse, no matter how hard-hitting the output. There's no concession to straight jazz, rock or improv conventions. They take on board all three, throw them out of the window, catch them in mid-air and mix them up with an abandon that is rooted in the strength of their musicianship, and an understanding built on several years of playing together in various contexts. They know exactly how to construct a dialogue to maximum effect and impact, maintaining interest at every turn.
At first Ward's fiery, metal-inflected guitar could throw the unsuspecting listener, but its perfect fit with Noble's tightly focused percussive propulsion and Edwards' fleet-fingered, rumbling undercurrents is one of the factors that makes the LP so vital.
Ward shows no fear in borrowing a melodramatic rock coda, in the Dave Edmunds' Love Sculpture vein, on side A's Betting on now, then driving full throttle into brittle, screaming, jazzy rock patterns, not too far from later-Miles group territory, all the time bouncing off the descriptive imperative in Noble's and Edwards' rich, rockingly rhythmic seams.
For all their outwardly devil-may-care bounding, crashing and wailing, the trio is just as likely to slip in to a delicately nuanced conversation of simmering ticks, wavers and knowingly precise rhythms and interplay. Which is exactly what they do on the opener of side B, 4th & three, before Ward's depraved slide guitar work smashes onto the shore, only to ride out the track with an enduring, nifty pulse that Noble and Edwards won't let go of.
Lasting just under forty minutes, 'Motion' proves to be something of a Trojan horse - once the initial full-on blast is absorbed, a multitude of sparkling interactions are to be discovered lurking in its shiny black grooves. A 2-track mini-CD (first 100 copies only) adds to the album with passages of portentious, abstracted quality that have Edwards delivering tremulous, bowed tones, Ward heading off towards a star-spangled Hendrix and Noble deftly adding colour.
The record is packaged in a wrap-round cover based on ancient cave paintings which is neatly screen-printed with a tremendous second image on the reverse. The vinyl pressing is all you could wish for - it has that extra depth and rounds off the tones beautifully - and not a crackle in earshot!
Only 300 copies have been pressed and the bonus of the mini-CD comes with the first 100 albums. Lift-off for the LP will be at N.E.W.'s concert at Cafe Oto on Friday 7 March. Watch out for anti-gravity forces at play!