While there are a countless number of freely-improvised recordings readily available, every so often one comes along that grabs your attention. But it is not common for such a recording to have been made by a veritable supergroup of musicians, much less one that has never recorded together before. Stovelit Lines is such an example.
The album documents a 2017 performance at Iklectik in London, and features four Britons joined by one American. Particularly, bassist John Edwards, drummer Terry Day, saxophonist John Butcher, and pianist Steve Beresford – all of whom have played together in various permutations – welcome guitarist Thurston Moore for 45 minutes of extemporaneous spontaneity over three long tracks.
As is often the case with music performed in this expansive style, the end result is as much concerned with texture as harmony or rhythm. On the opener, Butcher and Moore duel in jagged patterns with Edwards providing long-held notes and Day drumming up a storm without settling into anything resembling a traditional rhythm. Beresford offers up odd noises in the background.
Much of the second track is sparse and relatively quiet, as each instrumentalist respectively explores, often inserting extended techniques into the mix. Beresford’s piano refrains are haunting, while Butcher’s playing is breathy. Day’s drum-work skitters in and around these contributions, resulting in a stark and virtually ambient statement until the pace picks up about two-thirds of the way through.
The album finishes with a more overtly assertive piece, comprising Moore speed picking and making growling noises to support Butcher’s odd and guttural soprano sax utterances. Beresford provides a converse line while Day and Edwards approach (but don’t quite reach) a more predictable rhythmic structure. There is a mellower interlude with Edwards hitting slow, ominous notes that contrast with Beresford’s adopting of a nearly-playful approach. This introspection quickly passes and the group finishes with a tense workout with Beresford, Moore, and Butcher building layers atop one another.
Stovelist Lines was released on October 2, 2020, and proceeds from the recording will be donated to the brain injury association HEADWAY.