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ALEX WARD

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Alex Ward biography
Alex WARD (born February 12, 1974 in Grantham, Lincolnshire) is a British multi-instrumentalist, mainly specializing in clarinet, guitar and alto saxophone, whose work falls within the fringes of avant-garde rock and jazz music. His music career took off in the late 1980s after he met legendary free jazz guitarist Derek Bailey and, from the 1990s onward, began appearing on several collaborative albums on his Incus label, mostly focusing on free improvisation. In 2005 he founded Copepod Records with pianist Luke Barlow and released his first solo album Hapless Days. This album showcased a radical change in direction, steering away from jazz and improvisation in favour of a strictly composed but highly dissonant and experimental rock style with vocals. Ward would go on to perform the music on this album live with his band The Dead Ends, later named Dead Days Beyond Help. Since then, he has alternated free jazz releases with less improvisational material such as his solo guitar albums Frames and The Trade, as well as 2021's Gated, a strikingly discordant and complex rock album similar to the music of Yowie, Zevious and Upsilon Acrux, released by Martin Archer's Discus Music label. He has also been a member of numerous rock and jazz groups including Gannets, Nought, Camp Blackfoot, SFQ, Predicate and Forebrace, and has collaborated with a great number of different artists including Cardiacs, This Is Not This Heat, Weasel Walter, Lol Coxhill, Thurston Moore and Wayne Horvitz.

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ALEX WARD discography


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ALEX WARD top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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Crypt (with John Bisset)
2003
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Hapless Days
2005
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Help Point (with Luke Barlow, Simon Fell & Steve Noble)
2005
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Cremated Thoughts
2008
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Deadly Orgone Radiation: Power Trips
2015
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Alex Ward Quintet: Glass Shelves and Floor
2015
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Alex Ward Trios & Sextet: Projected/Entities/Removal
2015
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Proprioception
2017
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Bring a Book (with Mike Gennaro)
2017
4.00 | 1 ratings
Frames
2020
4.00 | 1 ratings
Noonward (with Sean Noonan)
2020
4.00 | 1 ratings
Proper Placement (with Sam Weinberg)
2020
3.92 | 3 ratings
The Trade
2021
4.00 | 2 ratings
Gated
2021

ALEX WARD Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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AJMiLIVE #15 (with Dominic Lash, Emmanuel Cremer & Lionel Garcin)
2016
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Alex Ward Quartet: Inductance
2017
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15.2.18
2018
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Alex Ward Item 10: Volition (Live at Cafe Oto)
2018
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Alex Ward Item 4: Where We Were
2020

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ALEX WARD Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Trade by WARD, ALEX album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.92 | 3 ratings

BUY
The Trade
Alex Ward RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mirakaze
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars This is the first of two solo albums Alex Ward has released this year, but it's mostly been overlooked in favour of its (admittedly superior) successor Gated, as it was released without much fanfare as a digital-only album on an obscure label without a Bandcamp page. Given that this is also a solo guitar performance whereas its successor is quite varied in instrumentation, and that both albums are similar in style but the music on The Trade sometimes feels like a mere skeleton compared to the more fleshed-out sound of Gated, it's easy to dismiss this album as just an appetizer before the main event. However, I find it to be a very intriguing listen in its own right despite its limitations.

The album is structured as an extended suite in five parts, spread across three separate tracks, all of which have a high level of dissonance and a generally disturbing tone. Part 1 sweeps the listener of their feet right away with a highly complex guitar workout that changes key and time signature just about every other second and has little to hold on to overall in terms of recognizable melodies. Even the guitar tone switches several times from clean to an Eruption-esque heavy metal tone to an atmospheric sound with the attack dialed way up near the end. To think that this was recorded in one take with no overdubs is almost frightening. Part 2 is slightly easier to follow, starting off with a more subdued section with something that actually resembles a recognizable pattern, but eventually leading into super-fast discordant picking which then devolves into pure noise near the end. Similarly, part 3, which seems to be the only part of the album that's fully (and freely) improvised, starts off relatively calm with simple chords but grows more and more intense and atonal as it goes on, culminating in another apocalyptic noisy freakout which then gives way to a haunting howling of high notes as the piece dies out.

Only by part 4 does the album grant the listener some peace, although it'd be no less appropriate to call the remaining portion of the album unsettling. Part 5 especially has a highly dour mood to it, sounding almost like a funeral march, and ends troubled and unresolved. I dare not guess what the concept behind all of this is (if there is any), or which emotional conflict the author wished to depict here, but I do know that with this album he has once again proved himself a master of the trade. Recommended for fans of John Zorn and Derek Bailey.

 Gated by WARD, ALEX album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.00 | 2 ratings

BUY
Gated
Alex Ward RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mirakaze
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars Alex Ward has never been one to make friendliness to the general listener a priority and Gated is no exception to this. The first track lets one know right away what they're in for as it drops them head-first in a fast-paced, dissonant and syncopated heavy guitar and woodwinds riff interspersed with frenetic atonal clarinet and guitar solos. While the drums are all programmed, Ward plays every other instrument by himself and proves himself a virtuoso at all of them. It is the cherry on top of an album that runs the gamut from harsh math/noise rock to free jazz.

Actually, my main criticism of this album is that the opener "Heat Patch" lasts only two minutes and the album doesn't really reach the same height afterwards, but that doesn't mean it's ever bad. On the contrary: "The Celebrated Restriction" and "The Bradford Factor" follow very much in the same vein but are instead centred on electric guitar and electric piano, respectively. These are both highly complex, professionally written compositions that won't appeal to listeners looking for recognizable melodies to hold on to but will certainly find an audience among those who wish to discover something new every other time they listen to something they've already heard before. "Buyout" is guitar-focussed again but is more of a minimalist rhythm study, again bringing comparisons to heavier math rock acts like Wyxz or Guapo to mind. Another true highlight that represents quite a different side of Ward's musical personality is the stately, arrhythmic "Let", a dissonant and unnerving avant-jazz composition for a septet of bass, percussion and woodwinds, which has a very cool chamber prog vibe.

I must admit to not personally caring for every part of the album, and it is unfortunate in this respect that my favourite song on the album happens to be the shortest while the lengthiest track ? "Hewn", an 18-minute noise collage of guitar feedback and vicious percussion assaults that kind of overstays its welcome for me ? happens to be the one that I could do the most without. I find the other two lengthy tracks more preferable: the album closer "Maybe It'll Break The Heat" is another guitar-led drone which has a simpler structure than "Hewn" but feels a lot more cathartic despite the lack of percussion, and "Cushioned" is a free improvisation that manages to stay intriguing throughout its 14 minutes. Free improv was what Mr. Ward started his musical career with after all, and he pays homage to the practice again on the ominous "Stilled", which sounds like a dark ambient theme with a reverberated clarinet roaring over it in the distance. In all, Gated is a fascinating tour de force for prog, jazz and math rock fans with trained ears and special tastes.

Thanks to Mirakaze for the artist addition.

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