Alex Ward emerged out of the Derek Bailey circle as a free improviser of pleasingly other-worldly aspect, and it was something of a surprise when he turned to electric guitar as well as clarinet and started showing an interest in more rock-inflected situations.
Noonan, by contrast, was born eclectic and seems to fit in to almost any playing situation you could imagine for him. So it’s a pairing that might seem improbable on the surface, but utterly logical when you trace it back.
Pieces like Packed (credited to Ward) and Noonan’s Circle Of Willis conjure up dark energies and a world of sound that seems much larger than a duo which goes out with minimal electronic support. Only Ward’s guitar offers much possibility of building bigger washes of colour and that’s not how it’s usually deployed.
There isn’t much in the way of soloing in any conventional sense. Pieces seem to be made up of distinct episodes, which might be pre-determined, or might have been improvised on the spot. Whatever the case, they invariably move with great logic in a particular direction and when there is a clear melodic flow, as on Noonan’s Funnel Weaver, it’s followed full-heartedly to its conclusion.
Ward has rarely sounded better or more focused. Noonan is all bustle and energy, but there’s a stillness, too, at the centre of what he does. It’s a highly impressive showing.
Buy Sean Noonan, Alex Ward: Noonward at seannoonanmusic.com
Packed; Wrinkles Of Time; The Stated Aim; White Light; Circle Of Willis; Leaf Count; Concrete Sleeper; Man No Longer Me; Funnel Weaver (58.00)
Alex Ward (cl, elg); Sean Noonan (d, pc, v).
Copepod POD 15