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Divine Art


Standing Jump (2002) [11:17]

Love (1999-2000 rev. 2001) [8:08]

Anthem (2002) [6:34]
David Arrowsmith (electric guitar), Linda Hirst (voice), Philip Howard (harmonium), Catherine Laws (harpsichord), Richard Pryce (double-bass), Stacie Robinson (vocal samples on ‘Love’), Emma Welton (violin, electric violin), Paul Whitty (piano, samples), James Woodrow (bass guitar).
DIVINE ART 29001 [25:59]
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Intriguing little ‘CD-single’ style discs like this one can leap either way: grateful for the brevity of the programme you either find yourself repeating the thing in a joyous thrill of discovery, or end up feeling a little cheated and wondering why you all bothered – artists and customer alike. This three track CD single was recorded in the autumn of 2004 and features works by all three founder members of [rout]. Looking at the website, I sense a trend similar to that of the younger artists emerging from Dutch Conservatoires – small groups like ‘Electronic Hammer’ who can create wildly animated sounding concerts while there is nothing but a pair of manned laptop computers on stage. There is a great deal of sense in composers working in compact, tightly-knit communities of sympathetic musicians, and with electronics which have the potential to turn an instrumental solo into something symphonic in terms of sonic depth.

‘Standing Jump’ by Paul Newland has some interesting sonorities, and for me is the most interesting track. Lightly bowed violin, harmonium and filtered electric guitar together sound almost like a glass harmonica on occasion, with pointillist harpsichord interjections and pizzicato violin setting tones and bare, open harmonies or dissonances in motion. The piece refers to the chronophotography of Etienne-Jules Marey, and a Japanese song form called ‘Ko-uta’. Within these terms, the piece is certainly an atmospheric and static depiction of quiet reflection, economy of means, and as the composer says, is "always on the edge of falling or vanishing".

‘Love’ by Paul Whitty seems to want to creep back into a dusty old Dutch electronic studio basement, reminding me a little of the wistful song defragmentation and distortions of some of Gilius van Bergeijk’s work (‘Over de Dood en de Tijd’ (On Death and Time) for instance), mixed with punky ‘Slash Orchestra’ style electronic outbursts. Not much new under the sun here, though literary quotes and references, and words cut and pasted out of context are always a handy hanger from which to derive some mental prickles.

‘Anthem’ by Sam Hayden, "is a fractured version of the British National Anthem", and his "critical response to the Jubilee year of 2002 and nostalgia for the British Empire." I fear Sir Edward Elgar would find nothing to relate to here, for, as the composer reveals in his programme note, each aspect of the conventional anthem was transposed using random factors, and further disrupted by pauses and heavy electronic distortion, and which "annihilates any last trace of the source material". So, we ask, what is the point? The Sex Pistols had more to say on this subject, and managed to say it with considerably more energy and irony. Without the title there is no way of tracing the root and origin of the work’s concept, so all we are left with is track full of grungy noise and quasi-intellectual fury, signifying nothing.

As a first outing I have the feeling that [rout] might have shot themselves in the foot, just a little. I can imagine that a live concert of theirs would be far more stimulating and I do wish the guys all the best for the future, but for me the material on this disc never quite ‘takes off’ in the way that their provocative group name (usefully (hmmm) provided with the dictionary definition on the website would seem to promise. There is no great sense of shock, rout or newness here: it’s the art gallery equivalent of the garland of twigs framing the sepia portrait of an invalid, the flickering neon light installation strewn with torn pages from ‘Penguin Modern Poetry’, and the glass of water labelled ‘Tree’ – it might linger in the memory for a while, but you won’t be burning rubber to return to the exhibition before it’s all taken down and forgotten.

Dominy Clements



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