Review: Posset & Charlie Ulyatt – A Jar Full (Crow Versus Crow, Jun 4)

Joe Murray, who performs and releases music as Posset, is one of the most prolific magnetic tape manglers active today. The strangled spoken words, gurgling mouth sounds, and disjointed dictaphone manipulations that pervade his work are more than capable of creating an enrapturing and very distinct atmosphere (see Totally Corporate!, one of my favorite records last year) but don’t seem to be the most versatile sound materials in a live improvised setting. A Jar Full, which sees Murray collaborating with avant-garde cellist and and artist Charlie Ulyatt, pretty much obliterates that assumption. Comprised of tracks made both through long-distance correspondence as well as direct live recording, the tape presents a pairing of instruments that hardly seems effectual… yet the results are astounding. The first side, composed of three tracks created by each musician playing over recordings sent by the other, documents a treasure trove of whimsical, dynamic improvisations, traipsing and trampling through typical duo conventions as Ulyatt’s bow squeals and percussive extended techniques call out, respond, and intermingle with Murray’s fast-paced cut-ups and impatient playback alterations. The untouched silence that squirms between the awe-inspiring conversational moments of “At This Lost Hour” and crippled cries of “High Head” is abandoned on “At the Angel,” the final track, which documents the duo’s first in-person live performance. It’s a restless, scrabbling conclusion to the tape, the audible space of the venue providing a welcome counterpoint to the claustrophobic sterility of the first side.