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Charles Hayward - Percy Howard, Charles Hayward, Fred Frith & Bill Laswell: Meridiem CD (album) cover

PERCY HOWARD, CHARLES HAYWARD, FRED FRITH & BILL LASWELL: MERIDIEM

Charles Hayward

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.00 | 1 ratings

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Lewian
3 stars This is listed under Charles Hayward, but "Meridiem" seems to be the band name, comprising Charles Hayward (drums, percussion & electronic sounds), Percy Howard (vocals), Fred Frith (guitar, violin, electronics) and Bill Laswell (bass). Most of this sounds like 100% improvised music (and therefore 100% democratic), only some tracks have some structure that was likely arranged in advance (Mingle, Iurodivii). The names of the band members raise high expectations, and the instrumental performances are fine (mostly on the experimental side of things), but most tracks have a certain "going nowhere"-feel to it. It's probably too free for my taste, with guitar and bass often too little coordinated with the drums, so that in many places the musicians seem to diverge (although they are fairly well together in terms of intensity). Percy Howard has a soulful quite emotional voice and although he mostly sings proper lyrics, he tries to get very varied sounds out of his voice, he uses it like an instrument. For my taste he howls too much and I have some difficulties with his voice, but I have no "objective" criticism of it, it's probably a good performance and others may like it. Charles Hayward is a great drummer and gives the music some steady rhythm in most tracks. Here he is surprisingly close to some of Jaki Liebezeit's performances; drums and bass in "Interference" evoke Can's "Halleluwah", and the drums in "Votive Rhythm" are almost identical to Jaki's in "Hoolah Hoolah" on Rite Time. Fred Frith does many things here, some melodic, some noisy (his favourite mode), some good but some pointless, at least to my unprofessional ears. Bill Laswell uses a strong smooth bass sound and plays quite jazzy and free; some more rock-like teamwork with Hayward would have given the music a stronger spine, which would have helped matters in my opinion.

I don't think this is a bad album; it has a fairly idiosyncratic mix of a rather free jazz attitude combined with a somewhat darker subtle atmosphere. As a whole, it is not monotone (although some tracks seem to go in circles); there are very different approaches to some tracks, in particular the more composed more melodic and calmer "Iurodivii" (my favourite in this album), Votive Rhythm with its more electronic/industrial feel, and "The 7th" which is more dominated than others by Frith's searing guitar. I could have done with more composition, structure and coordination though.

Lewian | 3/5 |

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