Mark Wastell

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Faktura Review

by François Couture

Despite the minimal means of this duo, their music is surprisingly inviting and gripping. Also known as a cellist, here Mark Wastell plays "amplified textures," which mostly consist of very soft crumpling sounds (like steel wool on guitar pick-up) and high-pitched whines. Graham Halliwell plays feedback saxophone -- no notes, just his sax bug placed deep within the bell of the instrument, picking up the resonances. The technique is similar to John Butcher's (and to Haco's microphone-in-teapot experiments) and Halliwell has developed a similar control of the tone, volume and duration of these feedbacks. These are the only elements making up the music on Faktura, and so each piece consists of fragile background textures and ghostly, delicate feedback tones. The 17-minute title track and the four-minute "Gegenstand" are simply fascinating. Without ever even coming close to playing a melody, Halliwell exploits the melodic aspects of feedback, coming up with his own refined form of melodicism. Of course, this music is highly demanding and experimental to the cutting edge, but it also is peculiarly charming. After recording this album (in October of 2002), Wastell and Halliwell went on to form the trio +minus with Bernhard Günter (who, incidentally, provided the artwork for this album). The latter's pre-recorded tapes and cellotar playing has added a certain level of variety and depth (but not density) to the duo's music. But Faktura remains a convincing first attempt in its own right and, despite its small-scale release on the Greek label Absurd, represents an important step in both Wastell and Halliwell's aesthetics.