Black Truffle is honored to present the first ever reissue of Whirled Music by Max Eastley, Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell, and David Toop, one of the key documents of the inventive and energetic scene around the London Musicians Collective in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Originally released on Toop’s own Quartz label in 1980, the LP features a remarkable series of performances made entirely with whirled and swung instruments and objects.
Part of the second generations of British free improvising musicians, the prolific scene centered around the performers heard here chafed at the limitations present within the music and ideology of improvising legends such as Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Tony Oxley and John Stevens. Where the first generations of British free improvisers often demonstrated a rigorous commitment to non-idiomatic free improvisation and instrumental virtuosity, musicians like Beresford reconnected with the dada antics of figures like Han Bennink and surrendered to joyful musical promiscuity, gleefully disrupting expectations around ‘serious’ improvised music through quotations (of anything from Beethoven to reggae) and deliberate amateurism.
However, where many recordings by various groupings of these musicians made around this time are gloriously anarchic real-time collages – see the classic Alterations LPs – Whirled Music is a singularly focused affair. Beginning in 1979, Whirled Music was the title given to a series of performances in which a variety of instruments and objects, both home made and store bought, traditional and invented, would be whirled to produce sound. In addition to variations on traditional instruments such as the bullroarer, Whirled Music also made use of whirled whistles, hand drums, radios and microphones. Due to the danger this represented for both performers and audiences, the performers wore protective masks and were separated from the audience by a net.
As Toop points out in the newly commissioned notes contained in this reissue, these events were somewhere between ‘composition, installation, and improvisation’, at once sharply focused and wildly uncontrolled. Presented in glorious cassette-recorded room fidelity, the LP’s first side features a single extended live performance in which percussive chattering, resonant gong-like tones, mysterious wind tones and swells of delirious noise join together to create a sonic landscape as reminiscent of an environmental recording (wind in the trees, the squawking of birds) as of an ethnographic recording of the music of an unknown civilization. Although purely acoustic, the music has an unstable, dispersed quality reminiscent of the pioneering live electronics of the Sonic Art Union or even early Voice Crack. The LP’s second side presents a series of shorter excerpts, including some beautifully sparse outdoor recordings where the sounds of the whirled instruments blend indistinguishably into the backdrop of environmental sounds.
A stunning document from a still under-recognised moment, Whirled Music is here presented in a stunning gatefold sleeve and 24-page booklet containing new liner notes by David Toop alongside contemporary reviews, flyers, notes on the instruments and performance documentation.
Remastered and cut at 45RPM by Rashad Becker at D&M Belin for maximum fidelity.
– Francis Plagne