Harry Christelis and Pedro Velasco: Scribbling

Skilful London-based duo equipped with guitars and pedalboards focuses on downbeat mood music, mostly some way from jazz

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Recorded at Soup Studio in East London’s Poplar in December 2020, Scribbling comprises 11 original compositions using guitars and pedalboard hardware, and is the result of five years of collaboration.

London-born Harry Christelis’s influences range from Jakob Bro and Bill Frisell to Connan Mockasin and Talk Talk, and he has worked with Jamie Doe’s The Magic Lantern and his own Rubber Walrus and Moostak Trios, the latter releasing a critically acclaimed eponymous debut album in April 2020. Pedro Velasco from Lisbon, Portugal, has been playing guitar since the age of 12, and has toured Europe with the free-improv outfit Splatter. He also leads several combos, including Akimbo, Machimbombo (an EP was released in 2017) and his own trio.

The brief opener, Paul’s Closet, starts on ominous deep tones tickled by introspective picking, while Time features a pleasing if mournful duet which sees the players spelling one another with more gentle plucking, providing the perfect background for meditation and segueing into subtle pedal work which could almost be synth generated. Charlie’s Dreamtime starts in a similar vein with low, resonant passages before raising its head above the improv-noise parapet to offer some playful, more recognisable jazz forms, while Gin offers a more standard format and is the loveliest tune here.

The otherworldly sounds of the prog-styled Wool, again sounding more like synthesisers than guitars, precedes the atmospheric Nos Entretantos Do Silêncio, another dreamy cut which melds esoteric pedal sensibilities with straight fingerwork before moving into an extended, feedback-styled close. Wild Coast offers more slow, laid-back, somnambular guitar interplay, its rhythmic stepping arrangement acting as a foil to more delicate picking. The funereal closer LD13 maintains the prog mood, sticking almost exclusively to the “distorted drones, sustained ambient textures and dissonant bleeps” heard throughout the album.

I always think of “improvisation” in terms of an old-school live or studio jam, whereas the music here really falls more in the “experimental” category, not unlike some of the vibes heard on Charmstone’s eponymous 2020 release. Those looking for the genre’s more traditional shapes won’t find many of them here: instead, there is an abundance of mellow, dream-like, very slow material with no upbeat offerings at all. However, the fingerwork from both artists is highly skilled and the accompanying sound explorations truly ethereal, leaving jazz fans who enjoy the genre’s more ambient aspects to bask in the aptly titled Scribbling’s iridescence.

Discography
Paul’s Closet; Time; Charlie’s Dreamtime; Scribbling; Gin; Wool; Nos Entretantos Do Silêncio; Wild Coast; Flash; Valsa Destes Tempos; LD13 (43.02)
Christelis, Velasco (elg). London, 2021.
Ubuntu Music UBU0095LP/CD