As with so many releases loosely bunched into the area of “experimental” music, the listener without any background information is left with the question of are they confronted by a partially improvised experience or a pre-planned option, for Dunmall’s Nonet present us with sounds that could easily fall into either camp.
It should be immediately said this is not a horn(s) with strings date, for each instrument carries equal weight throughout a series of contemporary soundscapes which do not place a high priority on melodic content. The vistas are often stark, minimalist at times, denser at others, frequently stretching the concentration of the listener.
In fact the opening Whatever It Was Joy Arrived lays down the ground rules for what is to come, the strings plotting a path around each other, bows often working overtime in deliberately discordant surroundings, enjoined with the rest of the ensemble including the leader’s lower register clarinet.
On We Came To Know, Dunmall and Metcalfe weave a tapestry reminiscent of so many exchanges to be heard within the framework of free improv and the title track is dependent on sympathetic ears or otherwise as to whether it is a thing of beauty or not.
Overall one is left with the impression of over an hour of music worthy of an outing at one of the Proms left-field nights.
Whatever It Was Joy Arrived; Awakening; When All Methods Count; We Came To Know; Interpretations Of Beauty; Tadpoles (67.38)
Dunmall (ss, as, cl, af, penny whistle); Neil Metcalfe (f); Trevor Tayor (mar, vib, pc); Philip Gibbs (g); Hannah Marshall (clo); Sarah Farmer (vn); Theo May (vla, vn); Alison Blunt (vn); John Edwards (b). London, 16 June 2019.