AXON: Constant Comments
Phil Minton / Fred van Hove / Marcio Mattos /Martin Blume
Phil Minton, voice; Fred Van Hove, piano, accordion; Marcio Mattos, cello, electronics; Martin Blume, drums.
1.Constant comments (18.06)
2. Song for creatures (12.06)
3. Sonic wizards (11.42)
4. Audiology (09.52)
5. Ways to talk (06.49)
Recorded at LOFT, Köln on 26 February 2004 by
Cover design (reproduced above) by Ewan Rigg.
"I still remember the joy that Axon's debut recording elicited from me more than a decade ago. "Perceptions" [which has since been sadly deleted from Random Acoustics catalogue] was a trio record where the three members initiated an orgy of the highest improvisational standards. Percussionist Martin Blume, cellist/electronics guru Marcio Mattos along with vocal wizard Phil Minton played together for the first time as if they'd been playing for decades. Their sense of communication was flawless. The long pieces on their debut release stretched out and let the trio's ideas come through in the clearest, most developed fashion. More than a decade forward, we get the follow up "Constant Comments". It's interesting to see the trio has now transformed into a quartet, with the addition of pianist [occasional accordion player] Fred van Hove. His percussive style of playing fits in very well along with Martin Blume's delicate and shimmering work. In moments, it sounds as if the group now had two percussionists instead of one. This makes for an excellent effect. Phil Minton's voice is still ever present [though he does take long breaks at times until we hear his voice again]. No matter how often I listen to the man, his Donald Duck-like quacking and over-the-top vocalization still leaves me speechless. Marcio Mattos continues to use his cello in a fashion that makes his instrument sound like something from outer space. "Constant Comments" is one of those releases that should be getting a massive amount of comments from die-hard fans, critics and new music lovers all over. Let's only hope we don't have to put up with another ten year wait for their next release."
Tom Sekowski GAZ-ETA
"Featuring Phil Minton on vocals, Fred Van Hove on piano & accordion, Marcio Mattos on cello & electronics and Martin Blume on drums. I've always had a fondness for the bizarre vocal antics of Phil Minton, since he consistently pushes his voice trough a variety of extremes. He has no fear of how ridiculous he sounds at times, from cartoon characters to vocal sounds that would certainly embarrass most humans to operatic and jazz singing. He has worked at length with Mike Westbrook, Lindsay Cooper and Bob Ostertag and more recently in a duo with pianist Veryan Weston (4 Cds so far), as well as in a quartet with Weston again called Four Walls. This group, Axon, had a previous disc out on Random Acoustics as a trio and has now added the great pianist Fred Van Hove. Marcio Mattos can be heard playing bass on discs by Elton Dean, Georg Graewe and Eddie Prevost. This Axon disc was recorded at The Loft in Koln in February of 2004 and it is an excellent, focused and intriguing quartet imrov session. The hour-long disc contains five mostly long tracks and has more dreamy moments than the usual crazier things that Minton is often involved in. Actually Phil is just a member of this quartet, everyone is one part of the group sound. Mr. Van Hove is one of the finest of all European avant-jazz pianists and seems to under-recorded. He gets numerous chances to stretch out on this disc and sounds inspired throughout, playing both inside and on the piano keyboard. Mr. Mattos contributes some creative cello playing, yet most often lays back, selectively adding spice when he can place his sound in the flow. I only know of percussionist, Martin Blume, from some half dozen previous releases, but he also sounds marvelous scurrying around his drums, matching wits with each member of this great quartet. Superbly recorded and quite mesmerizing."
BLG, Downtown Music Gallery
"If you need a new example of classic(al) European improv, this'll do nicely. It's exactly the sort of music Radu Malfatti used to dismiss out of hand as "gabby": five action-packed demonstrations of ten-finger fisticuffs (Van Hove), expressionistic cello scribbles (Mattos), scattery clattery percussion (Blume) and the by now familiar collection of grunts, gasps, growls and gargles we expect from Phil Minton. It's probably my imagination but Mattos and Blume seem to sound more like Tristan Honsinger and Han Bennink here than they have on previous outings, but that may just be the presence of vieux routiers Van Hove and Minton. Van Hove's playing in particular has never sounded so rooted in the classical / Romantic piano tradition (unlike Alex von Schlippenbach and Misha Mengelberg, who he's often been compared to by me too Van Hove has no feeling for jazz) hell, he even modulates at one point. Quite whether you think you need this record in your collection depends on how far you're prepared to agree with Malfatti when he describes such music as "stagnant"; true, it goes down many of the same country lanes these four fine musicians have explored before, but when the landscape is as beautiful as this, who minds a return visit? "
Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic Magazin
"Pianist/accordionist Fred Van Hove is one of the earliest first-generation European free improvisers to largely abandon the doctrine of unrelenting intensity codified on such early FMP recordings like Peter Brotzmann’s Machine Gun, and develop contexts that placed far greater emphasis on space and dynamics. Somewhat ironically, his joining vocalist Phil Minton, cellist Marcio Mattos and drummer Martin Blume in Axon, brings a visceral presence to an ensemble that achieved a low-decibel intensity on their only previous CD, Perceptions (Random Acoustics; 1993). Even in quieter passages, Van Hove prefers an insistent staccato attack and dark, foreboding lines and clusters. Especially when Minton lays out, the resulting trios are bristling, with Mattos bowing and plucking heatedly and Blume spattering rhythmic kernels. When Minton (whose ability to blend with a vast array of instruments is always a wonder), Mattos’ electronics and Van Hove’s accordion are hot in the mix, the music is propelled by a whirl of textures. Given that Axon’s last CD is now more than a dozen years old, passing on Constant Comments and waiting for their next is ill advised."
Bill Shoemaker, Point of Departure
Ken Waxmann, Onefinalnote
Ken Waxmann, Jazzword