Gareth Davis & Machinefabriek: Grower
Sonic Pieces

The idea of pairing the dark dronescaping of Dutch experimental producer Rutger Zuydervelt and the clarinet playing of British musician Gareth Davis proves to be an inspired idea. The two-part Grower isn't, however, the first release by the duo; when the two initially came together to collaborate, the resulting four-hour improvisation enabled them to issue not one but two full-lengths from the session, with Grower preceded by Drape. Limited to 336 handmade CD copies, the sophomore release is understated in approach, with the duo largely opting for nuance and low-key exploration in place of overkill and bluster.

The sixteen-minute first part opens with low-pitched drones from Zuydervelt that are soon augmented by Davis's breathy tone. The mood is contemplative and the tempo verging on stillness, with Davis ruminating unhurriedly alongside Zuydervelt's swelling mass. As the piece develops, the contributors' soundsóso fundamentally dissimilar on paperóblend together until they're virtually indistinguishable from one another, with Davis stretching out his tones to match the drone and Zuydervelt seeming to give his material a woodwind-like sheen. Being the natural solo instrument in this context, Davis's clarinet adopts a droning character in certain moments but then extricates itself from the surround with a series of melodic flourishes and runs. The second part doesn't depart dramatically from the mood of the first during its opening half, with the respective sounds generated by Davis and Zuydervelt once again woven together at the outset. If anything, the second plunges deeper into a dark, droning abyss, and Davis's clarinet exudes an even stronger foghorn-like quality. If the first part might be characterized as a dirge or elegy, given its generally mournful tone, the second could be called a doom-laden meditation that gradually swells in intensity over the course of its seventeen minutes. During its second half, the material grows increasingly agitated, and moments do arise when it threatens to morph from drone to noise setting. Hearing the two artists extend the drone style into a more violent realm turns out to be one of the things that recommends the project most, as the two show themselves to be complementary sparring partners regardless of whether the music is pitched at a controlled level or a more turbulent one.

March 2011