125CD - Michael Bardon - The Gift Of Silence - CD plus download

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An extraordinarily rich and atmospheric collection of solo music recorded during the first lockdown in July 2020. All pieces are derived from improvisations experimenting with extended techniques / prepared bass, microtonality and Harry Partch's 11-Limit tonality diamond tuning system, overdubbing and long formless melodies.  Discus music recalls that back in the 1970s and 1980s, solo bass albums were relatively common.  Today they are a rarity, and we are delighted to make a contribution to that tradition.

 

Michael Bardon - double bass and cello

Reviews

A real beauty this one and for sure one of my highlights for this year! ‘The Gift of Silence’ is the first and extraordinary solo album by Ireland-born Michael Bardon playing double bass and cello. Michael Bardon graduated from Leeds College of Music in 2010 and has worked as a professional musician since. He worked, for example, with Paul Hession, Tipping Point, Craig Scott’s Lobotomy (!), Nat Birchall Quintet, a.o. He was a founding member of adventurous quintet Shatner’s Bassoon. Recorded in July 2020, this album is another example of a solo album that came about under and because of the lockdown conditions, as it decided several musicians to explore their instruments. This is what Bardon did, and it led to an album with impressive results. All pieces came into being through improvising and experimenting “with extended techniques / prepared bass, microtonality and Harry Partch's 11-Limit tonality diamond tuning system, overdubbing and long formless melodies”. Opening track ‘Realignment’ takes you into deep and dark sound territories and ends like an overwhelming Ouverture. ‘F# C# A# D’ starts and ends in a delicate mode with melody echoes. In between, there is a repetition-dominated chapter that is more dynamic and rough. As the title, ‘Partched’, suggest, not only in the title evokes a strong influence of Partch. Stretched-out massive and rich sound patterns, with sparse undefined sounds in the background. ‘Dormancy’ and other tracks also show Bardon’s sensitivity to the physicality of sound. ‘Etude’ is a compelling and wild improvisation with sounds popping up similar to a crying baby. An album of breath-taking and engaging sound structures. Overall, dark and strange atmospheres dominate; however, the music is also very uplifting created by a compassionate and open-minded musician with a strong vision. - Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY http://www.vitalweekly.net/1324.html

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The Gift of Silence is sound…. ironic but true. John Cage locked into a hint of media interest on the back of that proposition; anyone who regularly listens to the minutiae of the life force knows the strength of the fact. Stellar bassist Michael Bardon opens his solo album, The Gift of Silence with almost four minutes of electrics/bowed drones reaching down into the core of what I understand to be music.  Those four minutes held me up.  I put my system on pause before travelling further.  The quiver of it crushed me. Bardon returns to the basis of the microtonal drone many times throughout this ‘silent’ gift (sic) – to devastating effect. This is not the first time I’ve caught Michael Bardon on record, he is much travelled in ‘contemporary jazz circles’.  Good as all that portfolio is, well worth exploring, I’d suggest that anyone interested in investigative listening should search out Discus 125 first – it is the stuff of knowing the unknowing.  Tracks like Springs and F# C# A# D cover the sound of new ground being broken, the latter’s melody as limpid and loose as a breeze over water.  (You’ll find your own simile.) The short but telling Partched (tipping the composers hat to Harry Partch’s diamond tuning system) – sources rough, smooth, space in equal proportions.  It is followed by two tracks, Etude and CTS, both soundblocks building walls of dissonance. The acoustics and electronics would not be out of place in a Samuel Beckett radio play passing up on a need for visuals. What do you want to become? The penultimate track is a question some of us have never been able to answer and, maybe, never will.  The way Michael Bardon poses the question reminds me of the great Charlie Haden’s attempts to turn his double bass into the voice of whales. As for Bardon, he signs off the question mark with another one of his melodic fragments, a kinda Gift, as in the album title. And here’s a thing, the final cut of tracked drones is called Doom II. To my ears it represents the beauty of finality. Interestingly Michael Bardon dedicates this solo project to his new daughter – at the time of writing this review, not a year old.  I too have welcomed a new addition to my wider family in this past year.  Even in a Doom II global crisis, procreation is unceasing. Like this wonderful collection of ten solo pieces derived from ‘dark’ improvisations, there comes a need for creative energy in all its forms.  Good luck to you Michael Bardon, I’ve enjoyed the listening of you. - Steve Day, 2022 

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Originally from Northern Ireland, bassist/cellist/composer/improviser MICHAEL BARDON came to Leeds, UK in 2007 where he graduated a few years later at Leeds College. He played with a variety of other musicians and bands, while his new solo album The Gift Of Silence was recorded during the first lockdown in July 2020. Michael plays double bass and cello and combines it with pieces that are derived from improvisations experimenting with extended techniques / prepared bass, microtonality and Harry Partch's 11-Limit tonality diamond tuning system, overdubbing and long formless melodies. The resulting album is a very interesting one, because Michael experiments extremely and it’s all done on a double bass, a cello and modern techniques, so it’s a rather unique album so to say. It has a dark almost krautrock ish sound somehow and also weird noises that seem to even remind one of being on a boat or sorta like that (during the song Partched) and the open-minded post-prog fans might find something of interest here. This is an unique original album that doesn’t sound like anything else in the world, so go check it out. - Strutter'zine

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Sein Spiel in Shatner's Bassoon und wie er die kosmische Sprache des Saxofonisten Nat Birchall beherrscht, sind zwei gute Gründe, The Gift of Silence (DISCUS 125CD) von MICHAEL BARDON gefasst und erwartungsvoll in den Player zu schieben. Basssolo, das mag in anderen Fällen Panik auslösen und sorgte ja auch schon für so manchen billigen Witz. Doch Bardon spielt Lullabies an der Wiege seines taufrischen Töchterchens, dem Grund seiner Neuorientierung ('Realignment'), und wirft neben Extented Techniques, Prä­paration, Mikrotonalität, Cello und Overdubbing auch noch Harry Partchs Diamond Tuning System in die Wagschale ('Partched'). Selbst wenn ihm ein Carpaltunnelsyndrom droht ('CTS'), nicht einmal bei 'Dormancy' lässt er die Hände ruhen, es gilt Etüden zu spielen und in Vorfreude auf das Trappeln kleiner Füße ('Pitter Patter') auch noch möglichst viel Zu­kunft für die Tochter offen zu halten ('What do you want to become?'). Bis 'Doom II' soll noch sehr weit hin sein, auch wenn der Homo falsus und die Politik am Gegenteil arbeiten. Bardon zeigt aus dem Stand auf virtuose Weise seine Poesie und sein Feeling. Mit einem sonoren 'Orgel'-Drone, den er in schillernden Tönungen changieren lässt, mit einer Aura wie aus der Rothko Chapel oder dem Vigeland Mausoleum. Gefolgt von vorwärts stürzen­dem Spiccato und diskanten Schmierern, die ins Dunkle kurven und sägend schrillen, bis daraus tappende Füßchen hervorgehen. Zu stöbernden, leise pfeifenden Strichen tappen und plonken aber auch die Finger zu regenbogenfarbig sirrsurrendem Arcosang. Bardon versucht vergeblich, das ganz elegisch geplonkte und gestrichene 'F# C# A# D' zu zersä­gen. Feierlich düsteren Strichen und durchgeknallt tobendem Tumult folgt 'CST' in ge­strecktem Galopp und mit wirbelnden und rhythmisch kratzenden Speedlines. Schläfrig schnarrender Singsang mündet in einem erneut elegischen, feierlichen Einerseits und glissandierend auffahrendem, pathetisch schwärmendem Andererseits. Mit zuletzt aller­dings doch knurrig dräuenden Auspizien, als ob ein brummender Tiger mit im Boot säße, den Bardon mit einem leicht desperaten Lullabye zu besänftigen sucht. - Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY 

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Michael Bardon ist ein irischer Bassist und Cellist, der meist in Jazzkreisen aktiv ist, aber auch als Musiklehrer arbeitet. Im Januar 2022 legte er mit "The Gift Of Silence" sein erstes Soloalbum bei Discus Music vor.  Wie man von Labelseite mitteilt, ist Bardon vor allem daran interessiert die elektronische Sonorität des E-Basses mit Synthesizerklängen und den akustischen Hervorbringung von Cello und Kontrabass zu vermengen. Auf "The Gift Of Silence" ist allerdings nicht viel von E-Bass und Synthesizern zu hören, dafür um so mehr von Kontrabass und Cello. Auf letzteren beiden fuhrwerkt Bardon recht ausgiebig, mitunter mehrspurig übereinander geschichtet und effektverfremdet herum. Hallende und schallende Tonkonstrukte aus schleifenden und knarzenden Sounds tiefer Streichinstrumente sind auf "The Gift Of Silence" zu finden, die bisweilen ein wenig an die frühe Krautelektronik erinnern, zumindest an das kosmische Tonknurren oder tieflagige Orgeldröhnen, welches bisweilen auf den ersten Alben des Genres zu finden ist.  Wir haben ja mit Joris Vanvinckenroyes BASta! schon Basssoloalben auf den BBS (siehe "Cycles" und "Vertigo"), doch hat Bardon einen viel freieren und experimentelleren Ansatz. Rhythmen gibt es auf "The Gift Of Silence" kaum, auch wenn hier mitunter recht hektisch über die Saiten geschrubbt wird. Vorherrschend sind aber Drones und sonore langgezogene Tonflächen (wie z.B. im grandiosen abschließenden "Doom II"), die kantig und oft bedrohlich dahin knurren. Mitunter geigt Bardon auch wild auf dem Bass herum (man höre z.B. die kurze "Etude"), oder bearbeitet die Saiten perkussiv mit dem Bogen. Allzu wüst wird es aber nie.  "The Gift Of Silence" bietet alles in allem sehr interessante Streichersounds zwischen zerbrechlich-sanft und hektisch-schräg, die wohl vor allem Fans von experimentelleren Klangkonstrukten und krautigem Tonschweben zusagen könnten. Ich finde diese Scheibe jedenfalls faszinierend. - Achim Breiling, BABYBLAUE SEITEN

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With regard to this specific release Archer notes;  “Discus Music recalls that in the 1970s and 1980s solo bass albums were relatively common. Today they are a rarity, and we are delighted to make a contribution to that tradition”.  I can certainly remember the prestigious ECM label, founded by producer and former classical double bassist Manfred Eicher, issuing a number of solo bass releases by artists such as Dave Holland, Barre Phillips, Miroslav Vitous and Eberhard Weber. It may even be that the album title is a subtle nod to ECM and their one time advertising slogan “the most beautiful sound next to silence”.  Inevitably Bardon’s album, recorded with the use of contemporary musical technology, sounds very different to any of these, but still represents the continuation of a venerable tradition.  The new album commences with the eerie arco drones of “Realignment”, which sees Bardon making effective use of the technology at his disposal to layer his sound, enabling him to create dark, sepulchral, doomy textures. We are into seriously deep sonic territory here.  “Pitter Patter” takes us into the realms of extended bass techniques. This aptly named piece features the sounds of the strings being struck by the bow to create percussive effects and also introduces an element of wilful dissonance during the (relatively) more conventional arco sections.  “Springs” evolves slowly, emerging from the sounds of almost subliminal bowing. Deep, melancholic arco sonorities are again the order of the day, together with an eerie dissonance. There is often a sense of being deep underground, lost in the forest at night or on the bed of the ocean about this often saturnine music.  The emphasis shifts to pizzicato techniques at the start of “F#C#A#D”, before the plucked patterns that Bardon has created are transferred to the bow, becoming increasingly complex as the piece unfolds. There’s the suggestion of the influence of minimalism in the repeated patterns, alongside the now familiar melancholy and dissonance, with Bardon frantically sawing at the strings at one juncture.  The title of “Partched” references the influence of Harry Partch (1901-74), the American composer, musical theorist and builder of musical instruments, who was also a significant influence on Tom Waits. Here furtive, semi percussive shuffling punctuates grandiose organ like arco drones as Bardon creates a one man ‘cathedral of sound’.  Despite the apparent innocence of the title “Etude” is perhaps the most extreme track on the record as Bardon attacks his instrument with an almost punk like violence and aggression, brandishing his bow like a weapon of war.

“CTS” deploys similar techniques to the earlier “Pitter Patter”, with the strings again being struck percussively, the pizzicato rhythms entwined with similarly rhythmic arco patterns to create a lattice of sound that again suggests the influence of the Minimalists.  “Dormancy” marks a return to the deep sonics of the opener, murky arco drones punctuated rumbling percussive noises and sounds that are sometimes eerily akin to the human voice. There’s a subterranean, dystopian feel to the music here.

The haunting “What Do You Want To Become?” is lighter in feel, but only relatively so. The piece is still shot through with melancholy, although it subsequently attains a degree of grandiosity. I’d surmise that a mix of cello and double bass sounds are deployed here.  The closing “Doom II” combines grainy low register arco sounds with a soupçon of electronic embellishment to create a darkly atmospheric piece that is worthy of its title.  The pace is almost funereal, sounding like the creaking and cracking of a glacier inching its way forward.  I found the music on “The Gift of Silence” to be darkly and weirdly beautiful and strangely compelling. Bardon, assisted by Sharkey’s post production, conjures a fascinating array of sounds from his instruments with the emphasis mainly on his work with bow. It’s a densely atmospheric record, the darkness and melancholy of much of the music reflecting the strange times in which it was created.  It’s not an album that will suit everybody and perhaps not a recording that you would wish to listen to too often, but it does have its own unique character with Bardon emerging as an improviser and composer with a singular vision. Financially supported by the Arts Council of England the album is a worthy addition to the adventurous Discus Music catalogue.     - Ian Mann, JAZZ MANN https://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/michael-bardon-the-gift-of-silence

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Martin Archer from Discus mentions that there are very few solo bass albums being released these days; but thankfully Michael Bardon, erstwhile member of Shatner’s Bassoon, has chosen to correct that. Over ten wildly varied pieces on The Gift Of Silence, he pushes both the bass and cello and our understanding of what sounds can be wrenched from them to their limits.  The deep drone and high overtones of opener “Realignment” sound not unlike what we might expect, a doomed fighter plane struggling over a rugged but lonely landscape. That sense of being alone and far from help is tangible, and the minute changes in the timbre and tone keep us abreast of the passing of time. “Pitter Patter” is the ultimate in contrast, a fleeting tapping on the strings somehow bringing to mind the sound of pan pipes. It is an unreal noise and hard to believe that it is coming from the strings of such a large instrument.  Michael tends to use effects pedals to wreak havoc on the original sounds, and at points the cello seems almost like a panicked clarinet being blown, then drawn out and deflated. It is more of a sound sculpture, with the frantic sawing evoking both frustration and desire.  The pluck and drone, the descent into silence and the re-emergence transformed all appear here, with the plangent tones like time ticking away. Little figures dance around the edges of the structures as clusters of notes appear ,and then we can just allow the decay to unfold. Unspecified patterns of rhythms turn into a frantic churn, splitting at the seams, bows bursting and strings flaying in sympathy. It sounds destructive and crazed, while the Wagnerian drama of “Partched”, with its deep chords and the flutter of rain, moves slowly, the strange chords making a sound like a harmonium at points.  The juxtaposition from track to track of wild explosion and frantic uproar to a more rhythmic wash with touches of harmonics is really very cool, and “CTS” then evokes that sense of headlong running, an attempt to escape, no goal in mind, just fleeing. In the background the tiny details stand out and make for an extraordinarily complete whole. From headlong flight to a slow deep crawl, each piece is a self-contained, almost isolated experiment in manipulation and ambience, all tied together by the sonority and and sense of wild solitude.  You just don’t know what to expect and that is the joy of moving through these pieces. The album ends with the drifting “Doom II”, part ambient wash, part distended whale song. It moves into slumbering dragon’s breath and all the drama that that might entail as you sense the creature awakening; and before you know it, you are overcome — and then silence prevails.  Michael Bardon has been hugely successful in pushing the bass to the forefront and then turning it into an incredibly varied tone-producing, atmospheric device. Rhythm and structure are tackled and then let loose on The Gift Of Silence, and the resulting action opens a whole new world. Excellent. - Mr Olivetti, FREQ

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Skilfully extends the concept with extended techniques. microtonal, sonically avant garde anti-diatonic traditions, overdubbing and a meditative use of space. - Selwyn Harris, JAZZWISE

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Track 5, ‘Partched’, in its punning title gives the listener a strong steer towards the approach that Bardon takes on this solo album.  For Harry Partch, in whose honour track 5 is named, the traditions of Western music using 12 tones or dividing in octaves was limiting and a deviation from purer musical forms which were more amenable to singing.  Partch referred to his approach as ‘just (or pure) intonation’, in which an octave could be divided into 43 tones.  This microtonality , and the use of overtones that it implies, produces musical patterns that sound very different to Western music (but could feel quite natural in Eastern and Middle Eastern traditions).  To create his music Partch created a set of weirdly named instruments, such as the Quadrangularis Reversum or the Chromelodeon.  Bardon does not, of course, use these in his playing but has immersed himself in Partch’s 11-limit tonality diamond tuning system to such an extent that he is able to produce pieces that are reminiscent of Partch’s work (albeit without the percussion - in places recalling, to my ears, the string sections of Partch's ‘Daphne of the Dunes’ ). One would hope that Partch would be impressed.  Unsurprisingly, given the complexity of the tuning, many of the pieces have a stately, elegiac quality to them with long drones accompanied by hushed scrapings of bow and rumbling of electronics.  In places this can be deliberately unsettling; hence the closing track is called ‘Doom II’, or the ostinato of ‘F#C#A#D#’ has more than a hint of the F, F# pattern the heralds the approach of a well-known shark.  Elsewhere the music, in its slow repetitions encourages a meditative state (much like the intentions of another pioneer of contemporary music, LaMonte Young). The cover art has an image of Bardon playing double bass in front on a rocky outcrop and I think this captures the sense of a musician responding sounds bouncing back from the rocks to align with his playing. But calling this album a ‘solo’ recording feels a bit of a misnomer because the ways in which he creates multi-phonic tones from bass or ‘cello and the layers of effects and overdubs often give the recording the feel of a quartet.   This is a richly rewarding set and one that repays repeated listening. - Reviewed by Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS

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