Max de Wardener: Where I Am Today

Let's see if I understand this correctly. Given the opportunity to release your debut album on Matthew Herbert's Accidental label, you maximize your release's commercial potential by filling it with tracks created using…cloud-chamber bowls and tin toys? Yes, you most certainly do, if your name's Max de Wardener, that is, London double-bass player and Dani Siciliano band member. Of course, the recording's unusual qualities are immediately signaled by the lovely cloth-woven booklet case that houses the disc and its pages of simple water-colour renderings. But it's the music on this thirty-three minute mini-album which impresses most of all. To call it minimal would mislead, as there's a wealth of musical activity inhabiting its nine tracks; “Noises From A Small Planet” and “Hundreds and Thousands,” for instance, both include glitchy, jittery breakbeats (apparently generated from a camera's whirrs and clicks in the latter) alongside their respective cloud-chamber bowl and organ sounds. Better to call the album generally quiet and peaceful, as befits music that typically emphasizes an instrument or two on each piece: organ on “Until My Blood Is Pure,” wires on (what else?) “Wire,” and bowls on “Americaca”; the rare exception is the full-band noir-jazz sound of “Snowflakes” which brings together drums, acoustic bass, and French horn. Don't allow the idiosyncratic instrumentation to obscure the critical fact that these accomplished compositions, while brief, would still sustain interest if voiced by the most conventional of instruments; that de Wardener has chosen eccentric sounds only adds to the appeal, a case in point “Minutia,” whose melancholy interweave of recorders is especially lovely. Kudos to de Wardener, then, for taking the road less traveled with Where I Am Today and producing such an original work.  

August 2004