Two reasons to get this album, amidst all of Paul Dunmall's available recordings: first, this concert features the saxophonist playing duets and trios with two improvisers he had never played with in small-group settings before; second, Stevie Wishart's work is cruelly under-documented. And her hurdy-gurdy opens up a gripping dialogue with Dunmall's border bagpipes in the opening piece, "Shells and Other Things." The pipes tend to drown out Wishart's instrument, but the pairing is nevertheless pretty unique (and it was the first time the two of them ever performed together). Then, there are two duets with drummer Paul Lytton, and the music falls back to known territory. Things are less frantic than what Dunmall usually plays with other drummers (the most frantic being Tony Bianco), as Lytton's textural approach seems to drive the saxophonist further down the abstract lane. The short "It's in Your Ear," with Dunmall on soprano sax, provides a highlight. The last two pieces feature all three musicians and the 16-minute "The Ears Have It" is simply one of those magical moments of free improvisation where unlikely instruments come together to paint riveting landscapes of alien yet strangely familiar appearance. Halfway through, Dunmall switches from soprano sax to bagpipes, fracturing the sound of the drone in his own unique way, while Lytton is rubbing his drum skins with his palms and Wishart delicately drones away. The short concluding title track is a bit too meandering to make a memorable finale, but that's only a small disappointment in an otherwise impressive album. The sound quality on this live recording at L'Archiduc in Brussels (Belgium) is excellent (and listeners wouldn't expect less from Emanem). In Your Shell Like may not be a key Dunmall recording, but it represents a rare quieter outing, rich in surprises and unique in sound.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
feat: Stevie Wishart
feat: Paul Lytton
feat: Paul Lytton