MARK FRANCOMBE Musician, Filmmaker, Game-designer & Kipple-monger

A present from the pickpocket: Lee Noyes and Phil Hargreaves

An intriguing free download comes from Lee Noyes and Phil Hargreaves entitled A present from the pickpocket. The duo apparently made this piece via mail sending tapes back and forth between Liverpool UK and Dunedin, New Zealand, over the course of four years. Their stated reason for its lengthy creation is a 2 year break in the middle where they both appeared to have forgotten the project due to differing medical afflictions, namely carpel tunnel and mental breakdown!

Starting as a rather typical free improv thing, with nods to the Paal Nilssen-Love school of rattley skin scraping drumming, and some scrapy cello, and distorted sax, but like the collage of bits and bobs that this purports to be it changes pretty quickly. There’s flute, wibbley sax squibbles, upright bass, electronic whines, chinesy koto sounds, scary backwards voices, crazy guitar and some very over blown and melodramatic singing, that puts me in mind of Peter Hammill in his Van der Graff Generator days, WAIT A MOMENT… Aha it is a Peter Hammill song… well this bit is anyway. A cover of “Mental Health” so their website admits.

Now there’s some Tuvan throat singing … and its getting really quite marvellous!

Messrs Noyes and Hargreves have, somewhat accidentally I think, driven you into a 47 minute Safari Park of a track here, taking you into areas of mixed experimentation, delicate soundscape and worrying neurosis, that although fun and entertaining, make you think you should be taking more seriously, they ARE endangered you know? You can see the gates of the next part of the park opening in front of you, and you anticipate some dangerous and exiting creature to leap out and jump on the roof, banging wildly, then in another section a singing baboon wearing a dirty pink jumper shits on the bonnet and everyone laughs, secretly wishing that you had gone to a castle or ancient ruin instead.

There is a long section of those Hammill-ish vocal histrionics towards the end, and I seriously begin to wonder whether someone should re-visit the therapist, but, you know, it works. A present from the pickpocket is a great… um, thing, really, full of ambience and feeling, magic, and some menace. It comes in waves, each section overlapping the last, and builds beautifully towards the end, when a song emerges, comprising a quirky synth (set on a voice patch that I swear would be too cheesy in any other setting) bass, drums and some tastefully harmonised singing by… the odd guy.

This is seriously warped and seriously wonderful!

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