[full press reviews]


"A dense, atmospheric work exploring the complex interrelations between samples and live sounds." AVANT

"On Frankenstein a manic gleam is discernible in the bassist's eye as he toils in his sonic laboratory. Reedist Charles Wharf is cast as the loyal assistant, aiding Fell's plan to wreak havoc with the natural flow of events. Sampled fragments of performed music form the basis for improvisation, which in turn feeds, alongside assorted found sounds, into the ongoing compositional process. Minor electric storms break out at regular intervals, and the churning continuum plunges at times into gothic indistinctness. In between lie passages of lucidity. Wharf has supplied a flowchart for those with an inclination to be led through the convoluted channels. A nice consideration." Julian Cowley THE WIRE

"The simultaneous publication of these 3 CDs (9 Points In Ascent, Frankenstein & Composition No. 30) demonstrates once more Simon H. Fell's catalysing method of operations, comparable to that of William Parker in New York. An instrumentalist with a proven technique, the bassist has also established himself as a composer with a passion for experiment, and both these aspects of his personality are evident on each of these discs. Frankenstein is a complex work built up over a period of four years, evidence of Charles Wharf's & Fell's interest in new technologies. Each composition mixes multi-instrumentalism, improvisation, composition, electronics, pre-recorded tapes, sampling and other techniques with an overwhelming virtuosity." Gustave Cerutti IMPROJAZZ

"Completely bonkers. From the very appealing outside of this release, one would take it for an ordinary duet album by two of the London scene's more adventurous players - and how wrong one would be. Only the track titles give away the fact that something quite genuinely demented is going on within. The disc's 32 tracks are formed by collaging together a variety of solo and duet performances which form the basic material and are rarely heard by themselves, producing instead often densely layered virtual jam sessions. A helpful diagram is enclosed which, to take a typical example, indicates that the first track is the middle section of a duet improvisation, overlaid with samples from the other sections played ad lib on keyboards. This is itself then sampled and forms part of the next piece, along with a performance of Bach's Partita No. 2 sampled from the third track. The album as a whole is structured like an elaborate knot, recursively sampling itself until it is impossible to tell "live" performances from electronic manipulations. Because of its quick-change format, there are plenty of stand-out moments here, although the one which grabs you on first listen is probably Fell's iconoclastic reading of a jazz standard, Here's that Rainy Day, on distorted bass guitar, an instrument which he clearly knows his way around. This is a format which suits Wharf too he creates intelligent textural music as evidenced on the outstanding second version of Crammed with Distressing Brain. This record has a distinct whiff of Zorn about it, in the brevity of each piece and in its use of so unconventional a compositional approach. Like Zorn, Fell is one of the most interesting and consistently successful composers working with improvisers today, and doing the composition after the improvisation is finished is a nice twist which works. He's also a formidable bass player, and anything which he releases is always worth a look. This one happens to be exceptionally good." Richard Cochrane RESONANCE

"As the title suggests, BF 25 can be pretty scary in spots, some of the mutated instruments conjuring up Lovecraft as much as Shelley. Those listeners acquainted with, say, Napalm Death or David Tudor's amplified toothpicks, or Albert Ayler, will find something to relate to here. File under 'exploring unpleasant but fascinating recesses'." Steve Beresford MUSICIAN

"The composer-bassist duets with his favourite multi-reedist, forcing their playing through a mind-boggling system of samples, electronic retrogrades, time-lapse playbacks and ambient mise-en-scène. Reworkings of Grachan Moncur III's Frankenstein and Fell's own Crammed With Distressing Brain render sonorities and transitions that surprise on each listen. The hovering, speculative intelligence of the pacing recalls 1950s Darmstadt, but it's done with skronk guitar and improv screeches. Frankenstein attains the extremes post-rock craves but rarely has the note palette to deliver. Relief patches of straight bass clarinet and double bass draw blood from the fold-in mania. Gleefully improvising with the output of their hardware, Wharf and Fell make a living, lurching monster out of technologies designed to pin sound to the table. Electrify your brain pan! A:1" Ben Watson HIFI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW

"Both players also play keyboards, but it is Fell's use of electronics that gives the impression the monster is loose and the world has gone berserk. Comprised of eight cuts but sub-grouped into 32 eight-second to four-minute titles, the recording is a disjointed amalgamation of free-form sounds that seems to foretell the coming of World War Ill. From a new music standpoint, the recording includes some very exceptional moments, as when Wharf improvises freely on clarinet and Fell runs the bass line while church bells echo in the background. When Wharf cuts loose on any of his reeds, he can generate a lot of energy and stimulate the audience. His soprano solo on Scarcity of Convolutions is particularly engrossing. Fell also demonstrates fine improvisational skills. What gives the recording its unorthodox sound, however, is the injection into the standard instrumentation of sporadic electronic noise. Although this is the obvious intent of the artists, the problem I have is in determining what is created and what is reproduced. Maybe this should not matter." Frank Rubolino CADENCE

"Those familiar with the tape manipulation techniques on M.M. (1991), Wharf's and Fell's last album, will have some idea of what mutative feats this duo are capable of. But Frankenstein goes further, much further into the realm of "xenochronous combinations" - Fell's term for compositions constructed from sampled improvisations (their own, of course), plus, in this case, Bach and Grachan Moncur fixations. And what macabre fun they've obviously had stitching together all this timbrally monstrous material. James Whale's 1931 horror classic supplies the central operational metaphor, as well as sleeve photography and most of the track titles which are wrenched from the screenplay. They also throw in some well-timed, tongue-in-cheek stormy sound effects for Gothic good measure. Fell's double bass is hugely vibrant, full of sinewy detail; his rediscovered bass guitar roars like Squire's and Wetton's of old. Wharf's reeds even manage a few bursts of melody, but mostly grip the attention with a penetrating, abstract vigour. For nearly an hour, this world of bizarre, brutish splendour is skilfully maintained by a consistently warped sense of logic." Chris Blackford RUBBERNECK

"Highly intriguing - of Fell's recent works this is recommended highly. Fell makes cut-ups of Charles Wharf's saxophone playing and mixes it with foreign elements, his own playing on keyboards and bass guitar, and layers of sound effects. The CD traces an eccentric and quirky movement through a suite of ideas, handled with mastery and the kind of exquisite miniaturist detail we're coming to expect from this man Fell." Ed Pinsent THE SOUND PROJECTOR

"Frankenstein sets man against machine. The 'compositions', which consistent of improvisations fixed, remodelled and restructured by samplers, are fed into the circuit with other real-time 'improvisations' which are eroded by retrospective effects and production techniques." Alexandre Pierrepont JAZZ MAGAZINE

A Cadence CD of the year (Critics' Poll), 1999

"Call it a Requiem for the Twentieth Century, or Music to Decapitate By, this duo of Charles Wharf (clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, and keyboards) and Simon H. Fell (keyboards, bass, bass guitar, and electronics) should clear the cockroaches from your cupboards if it doesn't first frighten away your roommates or spouse. Actually, what distinguishes it is its remarkable ability to remain utterly and originally musical while it disturbs. Wharf's piercing clarinets mixed with warped electronics are perversely appealing, and the group's takes on Here's That Rainy Day, Grachan Moncur III's Frankenstein, and Bach's Sarabande (Partita No. 2) are stunning, even if completely deconstructive. Well planned, meticulously crafted, and fascinating, this recording is filled with numerous delights. Plus, if you've ever needed evidence that Simon Fell's brain is on fire, this may do the trick." Steven A Loewy ALL MUSIC GUIDE

"A great boiling soup of sound. ***(*)" THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ ON CD


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