Gulls – FREEer (Sonic Lozenge)

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A gentle drum loop stumbles along for a few seconds, then the bass drone kicks in and sets us up for the journey. Two minutes in and group leader Jesse Munro Johnson’s distant trumpets intone the Last Post’s cousin. From here, things get freeform with drums, percussion and bass joining the electronics and trumpets. A single live take spans the entire first side of the vinyl, building, as improvisation often does, in intensity as it progresses. There is a consistent aesthetic across the track’s quarter of an hour, though each musician moves through musical ideas so that things constantly shift and hold interest. It’s an interesting half-way point between abstract sound and musical deliberateness and, for the most part, the group pulls it off successfully. It’s not free in a jazz sense as such – the rhythm is far too solid and the playing far too tuneful – but there’s that element of play and a ‘throw out anything to see what sticks’ attitude on which the whole piece happily rests.

Side two is the entire piece reworked by Michael Bruce with drum machines and synths and the trumpet tracks through a guitar amp, all again recorded live in a single take. It’s a very interesting blend of remix and cover version and, while very obviously based on the same piece of music, sheds completely new light and is just as listenable in itself. Loping drum loops underpin the fuzzed up synth and trumpet drones, with a simple, almost dub, two note bass line adding weight.

Mention must also be made of the hand-printed artwork, always a major plus in my opinion. If it is psychedelic-tinged contemporary improv that suits you, then the music and packaging of this work will definitely not disappoint.

Adrian Elmer

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About Author

Adrian Elmer is a visual artist, graphic designer, label owner, musician, footballer, subbuteo nerd and art teacher, who also loves listening to music. He prefers his own biases to be evident in his review writing because, let’s face it, he can’t really be objective.

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