Grutronic

Grutronic are an electroacoustic quartet. Here are the sleevenotes from our debut CD, Essex Foam Party:

Grutronic are a collective of free improvisers. All have a past/present as acoustic ensemble players. In Grutronic they become re-incarnated as electronic musicians, extending technique through the development of highly personalised systems of sound production and control. Recent innovations and new intuitive and performance oriented technologies have put tools and techniques, once the preserve of the electronic music studio, into the hands of player. Grutronic take on these new challenges with glee. Together they aim to surprise and delight the listener and themselves with unheard forms and sound-relationships, galvanised in the moment of performance.

“We aim to utilise to the full the flexibility offered by electronic means to create new freedom from fixed musical roles. Part of the music is finding what our roles should be, depending on what is going on (or what we think is going on) at any given moment . If playing saxophone or drums for example, even in the context of free music and with the most extended of techniques, the role one can play is limited by the physical possibilities of the instrument. The flexibility of our electronics gives us many possible roles from which to choose. Any member can play lead, rhythm, bass, ensemble, evolving textures etc. in our group. We can achieve a kind of ‘unity’ with electronics, quite different to that we have experienced as acoustic players. Often, when the music is really happening, it’s very hard to tell exactly who is doing what – this is usually a sign that things are going well!.“

The band have often invited guest musicians such as Clive Bell and Evan Parker to fill an undetermined role, somewhere between soloist and ensemble member. Neither Paul nor Orphy had performed with Grutronic before the London concert at which most of Essex Foam Party was recorded, so these complex, mutating, almost orchestral-sounding pieces are the unique result of capturing that first meeting.

Richard Scott.: buchla lightning, analogue synthesizer, sampler, processing.
Richard exchanged formative experiments with synthesisers and drum machines in the post –punk early eighties for a move to London and the free music scene. Inspired by encounters with John Stevens, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and AMM, he briefly studied with Steve Lacy, completed a doctorate thesis on free improvisation, and made extended trips to play music in West Africa. Subsequently he has aimed to straddle these two musical worlds searching for connections, through free-improvisation, between music, movement and the body. Richard uses a system of complex motion-controlled electronics, based around the Buchla Lightning, on this recording.

In the 1990s he moved to Manchester, where he played and recorded with Bark!, Stock, Hausen and Walkman, Grew Trio and Pool and recorded the plunderphonic album Magnificence of Stereo with Rex Casswell (sruti BOX records). He has worked on a variety of projects with David Ross including “Let’s Make a Solar System” (Inu.itu records) and Long Shore Drift (f4b.com) and recently released an electroacoustic album, Wood Wind Tide with Clive Bell (Kwan Yin records). He lives in Berlin and is an Artistic Resident at STEIM, Amsterdam focussing on infra-red and movement based performance technologies.

Stephen Grew, keyboard, processing
”I was brought up with the piano from a very early age. My father plays and my grandfather did also. As a large percentage of my daily work is solo piano music, I have a very intimate relationship to the piano as I have been working on my music for over twenty years. But when I decided to become a musician
I quickly discovered that acoustic piano gigs were going to be fewer than I like, so I finally invested in a good keyboard. At first I treated the keyboard like a piano, but working with the electronics in Grutronic has been a steep learning curve, as the electronic keyboard in many ways is an entirely different instrument! My approach to Grutronic has been to use my pianistic technique with a light touch to activate electronically effected phrases which join or run at tangents with the overall sound. Together we make unusual concoctions of sound shapes and forge them together in the moment of performance.”

Stephen’s piano recordings include “Improvisations Series One’ with Graham Clark (Planet Gong), “Pianoforte”  with Keith Tippett, Howard Riley and Pat Thomas (SLAM Records) and “It’s Morning” Grew Trio (Discus Records).

David Ross. Drosscillator

David Ross taught himself to play drum kit the wrong way round in his teens, playing with guitarist Matt Deighton. He soon found a path to free improvisation, inspired by Ornette Coleman records, watching maestro Roger Turner and talking to Keith Rowe about Steely Dan. He has since explored a multi-instrumentalist approach in his duo with Clive Bell, resulting in Metier Jazz release, Mystery lights/Nightflower, latterly moving into live electronics through involvement with Grutronic. David is currently working on music for two smoke alarms, and a piece theoretically for installation on the London Eye. He has been drummer in London instrumental combo Kenny Process Team for 18 years.

Nicholas Grew, transduction, processing
Nick studied orchestration and composition at the University of Toronto. His interest in electronic music brought him into the realms of pop and alternative rock music as a songwriter, co – producer and member of New York-based Ballistic Cabaret and Newvacuum in Berlin. For the last few years he has lived in the UK and composes music and soundscapes primarily for theatre. In Grutronic he composes using live sound processing along with electronic toys and small handheld instruments.

“I have always been fascinated with creating new sounds, some from everyday objects, shaping them, changing them into something else and orchestrating them in relation to those created by the other members of Grutronic. In the moment, I try to sculpt sound from as little as possible.”

Paul Obermayer, sampler
Paul is an improviser and composer living in London. He
studied maths at University College London and acoustics at South
Bank Polytechnic. He has mostly made (live) electronic music –
primarily in the electronic performance duo FURT with Richard
Barrett, and in the improvising trio Bark! – as well as occasional notated instrumental pieces: his piano piece “coil” played by Philip Thomas, was recently released on CD by Bruce’s Fingers. He is a member of Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. He has also performed keyboard/sampler solo as
well as with Mick Beck, Tony Bevan, Adam Bohman, Karlheinz Essl,
Harry Gilonis, Alan Tomlinson, Michael Vatcher and members of the
London Jazz Composers Orchestra, among others. He is a co-director of
the London-based ensemble RESERVOIR, and has taken part in RESERVOIR performances of music by Globokar, Nono, Saariaho, Stockhausen, Varèse and Xenakis.

Orphy Robinson, vibraphone
Multi-instrumentalist Orphy was one of the young British jazz musicians who rose to prominence in the mid-’80s. Inspired originally by Roy Ayers, Orphy played with Courtney Pine in the Jazz Warriors. He made a couple of albums for Blue Note records since which he has turned his back on the world of jazz standards in order to experiment with new forms and modalities. He has worked with David Murray, Don Cherry, John Tcichai, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Masekela, Louis Moholo, Nana Vasconceles, Andy Sheppard, Butch Morris, Mica Paris and Junior Giscombe. As a composer he has written for the English Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and for the Balanescu String Quartet.

Recording notes

Tracks 1, 3 and 6 were performed by S. Grew, R.Scott, D. Ross, O. Robinson and P. Obermayer in concert at the Spitz, London 1st September 2007, mixed and recorded live to stereo by Amir Shoat. Tracks 2, 4 and 5 performed by S. Grew, N. Grew, R. Scott and D. Ross “live” at Yellow Door studio, London on 14th July 2006. Track 7 was performed by S. Grew, N. Grew,R. Scott and D. Ross and recorded live to multitrack at the Gregson Centre Lancaster, August 20th 2008 by Antti Sakari Saario, mixed by Richard Scott. The recordings were edited and mastered by Richard Scott and David Ross.

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a study in listening, and perhaps bewilderment; an audience consider Grutronic performing live at the Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen Festival, Austria, 2008.

a stream of the entire Grutronic concert with Evan Parker at the Next festival of Advanced Music in Bratislava 2009 is here, not very high quality. A really great recording of the concert will be released by PSI Records in 2011.

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