Boomkat Product Review:
Radical harpist Rhodri Davies revives his 2003 debut solo release with a reissue on his own label as a stark reminder of his uniquely inventive brilliance.
One of the UK’s most vital, versatile, and combustible improvisers since the late ‘90s, Davies has earned a reputation as a fearless explorer of his historic instrument’s range, as applied on recordings with everyone from Apartment House to Richard Dawson & Hen Ogledd, Derek Bailey and even Charlotte Church. On ‘Trem’ we catch fire from a series of concert recordings made at St. Michael and All Angels Church, London, 2001 that manifest his prowess in multiple ways, making the harp gurn, shriek, rasp and sing in forms practically unheard previously from the stringed instrument that has been around, in some iteration or other, since 3000 BCE.
Without prior knowledge of context, you might be hard pushed to identify that Davies is even playing a harp, such is the dynamic range he elicits across ‘Trem’. His opener ‘Cresis’ makes haunting use of the church’s acoustic character in an unpredictable play of echoic negative space ranging from bat sonar like pips and half formed melodic structures resembling tortured choirs, thru to more gnarled evocations of doom metal, whereas the rapid plucks and vamps of ‘Undur’ hint at the instrument’s middle eastern provenance, and the album’s titular highlight also wields tape and percussion in a disorienting blizzard or noise masking its origins. In the tantalising high register tone and struck body of ‘Beres’ we hear traces of Romanian spectralist settings, and again a return to metal gnar in the buzzsaw grind of ‘Plosif’, while rupturing passages of near silence in ‘Berant’ and simmering it down to circling embers on ‘Atam’.