contraption reviews

The trio’s special accomplishments include a kind of simultaneous integration and distinction of the acoustic and the electronic. The opening “Polaris” mimics both cello and rivet gun, and they sound like they’re coming from a single source. The music is at times densely percussive…at other times almost minimalist. There’s a sense that the band is working over traditional patterns that are implied rather than overt. There’s also a sense of linear movement, a rhythmic impetus – some subliminal rock, jazz and R&B – that’s all the more compelling for being unstated, so you often have the feeling the band is driving ahead when you only have a scrappy electronic sound, or that Casswell has launched a pyrotechnic solo (“Gyre”) in which the notes have been mercifully left out. On “Spanners” there’s some gritty guitar playing that’s so altered I’m not even sure it’s a guitar. “Mr Pointy” seems to combine industrial and funk and has a passage where Marks’ drums seem to be triggering a saxophone. Ultimately there is a kind of collective, social genius at work…

STUART BROOMER, musicworks

The guitar is not deployed to produce recognizable guitar sounds, but more as a source of electronic sounds that are frequently indistinguishable from Paul Obermayer’s sound samples… “Gyre” is particularly noteworthy for encompassing a range of suggestive sounds. None are specifically identifiable, but many could pass as sound effects from a Looney Tunes cartoon, giving the piece its own distinctive sense of drama. There is a reason that BARK! ends with that exclamation mark. The trio is completed by Phillip Marks, whose percussion work shapes everything and holds it together. His drumming drives the music along and gives it its pulse – enough indeed for the Psi publicity to describe it as “James Brown meets the spirit of Modernism!”, not a phrase often attributed to improvised music. On “Below Zero” Marks is particularly prominent, combining with low frequency electric pulses to produce a complex but compelling rhythm pattern. Even on a track such as “Mr Pointy”, where Casswell and Obermayer combine to produce a maelstrom of sound, Marks gives the piece real momentum. The musical conversation between the three players is intense and highly concentrated. The end result has an architectural sense of structure to it as well as being great fun to listen to.

JOHN EYLES, alllaboutjazz.com

Percussionist Phillip Marks triggers a consortium of sub-plots for themes that are based on gentle rumbles and ascending lines, augmented by guitarist Rex Casswell’s split-toned lines. They move about via darting dialogues and push/pull techniques. One of the unique attributes of this session pertains to band’s fusion of the acoustic-electric factor. At times it is difficult to distinguish between the organic element and Paul Obermayer’s sampling maneuvers. Chock full of intersecting mini-motifs, the musicians sound as though they are splitting atoms via low-pitch bass drones and Marks’ rim-shots on the piece titled “Below Zero”…anything is free game here. Fascinating stuff…

GLENN ASTARITA, ejazznews.com

…they seem to be combining their earlier love of sheer density, filtered through the insect-prov long mastered by the London scene, with the kind of pulse-based explorations more commonly heard on recordings by, say, Voice Crack. Marks is obviously key to this, with very tight sounds and a shifting momentum halfway between Paul Lovens and Martin Brandlmayr. Casswell is pretty adept at creating small, frequently pinched animal noises that seem to move furtively between Marks’ oblique patterns, while Obermayer is more expressive in his deployment of often brash electronic spasms (only occasionally can you isolate the actual sound sources, as on the sax hocketing during “Mr Pointy”). The snarling “Snout” is a standout track, embodying the group’s increasingly distinct language, but I also dig the hot-and-cold industrial sizzle of “Spanners”.

dustedmagazine.com

Nine tracks that fight the e-commerce of presets, laptops and pro-tooled bedclothes through the one and only available weapon: instant fancifulness. “Interplay” is a word that’s too often used without really considering its real meaning; this time, though, it makes all the sense in the world, as these three musicians not only listen – with the utmost attention – to what they reciprocally do, but also let us intuit what’s going to fill the blank spaces, leaving a little margin for the sounds to self-determine in order to extract immediate reactions and indeterminate enthusiasm from our systems, cranial twitches and spastic foot-beats augmenting their intensity in parallel with the puddles of scintillating liquids and ruptured percussive patterns characterizing spectacular tracks like “Snout” or “Mr Pointy”, the latter my overall favourite (think Last Exit put in a meat grinder with Bill Bruford’s trademark snare drum)…
BARK! is that kind of ensemble that deteriorates the patience of saints through insistent pricks to common sense that nevertheless cause an irrepressible smile of approval. A true fusion of radical gestures and wide-eyed electronic sapience that calls for an immediate check…

MASSIMO RICCI, touching extremes