What happens when a folk instrument is taken out of its customary milieu and asked to extend itself into musical territory far afield? One answer at least can be found in The 1926 Floor Polish Variations, a release of music for melodeon, guitar, saxophone and an assorted miscellany of sound makers.
The melodeon—the folk instrument alluded to above—is a diatonic button accordion usually associated with sea chanties, Morris dancing and the like. Here, as played by Richard Sanderson, it becomes a formidable instrument in the experimental arsenal. Sanderson is able to extract dissonant overlays of tones, multiphonics, beats and air notes in addition to sounds drawn from the instrument’s mechanisms and casing. (Sanderson’s 2011 solo release Improvisations for Melodeon shows the sometimes surprising range this ostensibly simple instrument is capable of.) From that sonic foundation Daniel Thompson’s guitar and Mark Browne’s saxophone build a superstructure of contrasts and resemblances. The melodeon and saxophone often work together to create a knotted web of long tones, frequently taken from the wind instrument’s upper register. Who’s playing what becomes something of a guessing game until Browne declares himself with a rapidly convoluted line or unmistakable growl drawn from the lower register. Thompson binds and separates the other two with quick, staccato bursts or individual notes left to linger in the spaces between. Seemingly inevitable at the local level while unpredictable over the longer term, each of the four improvisations collected here move along from point to point over the course of a collective stream of consciousness attentively spun.
The sound files are accompanied by a PDF containing striking semi-abstract photographs and an evocative text by Browne.