collected reviews of david newlyn’s ‘friday night choir practice’
englishman david newlyn of durham first came to my attention as the proprietor of a small, adventurous cdr label called “october man recordings”, specifically through his brilliant ep release ”streetcleaner” by nigel samways (reviewed elsewhere in these pages). soon after, newlyn retooled the label as “cathedral transmissions”.
in the meantime, samways opened his own cdr boutique, the ephre imprint, and newlyn´s very own cathedral transmission - friday night choir practice - takes pride of place among its first offerings.
newlyn has apparently used a lumix digital camera to capture the sounds featured on the disc. what this exactly means to the process is lost on me. but he has carefully gathered ambient sounds in an unnamed cathedral and the choir inside practicing its art, accompanied by a stately organ.
but far from being a straight field recording, newlyn has both zoomed in on his subject by radically though delicately treating the sounds, and stepped quite far back. we are not sat in the front row but rather listen from a distance. imagine yourself a gargoyle jutting out from a corner of the roof, hearing the sounds emanating from within with stoney cold ears.
the first, nineteen-and-a-half minute part is austere and beautiful and readily identifiable as voices and music in space, before it segues seamlessly into the second ”version”, which is far more abstract. my ears wonder if the main source is been the pealing of bells stretched and smeared beyond recognition.
in some ways, it is rather like the same motif painted once as a portrait in water colours and then a second time as an abstract in oils.
samways´ own ”silver rain, green trees” got the ephre series off to an auspicious start with its gallery of quirky aural sketches of suburban london along the thames in all its ”sodden, overgrown” and mossy glory.
david newlyn’s friday night choir practice is the sole five-inch in the bunch but its tight conceptual focus lends it a three-inch feel; at thirty-three minutes, it’s the longest of the group too. true to its title, the two-part work transports the listener to a night-time durham cathedral where field recordings capture a typical choir rehearsal in process as well as numerous ambient sounds (rustlings, voices, a baby’s babble). angelic choral voices and church organ emerge from the ambient mist, sometimes separating themselves from it and at other times swallowed up by it. listeners familiar with gavin bryars’ jesus’ blood never failed me yet might hear similarities between it and newlyn’s piece, specifically in the soothing effect induced by the singing and in the works’ similarly time-suspending qualities.
a dramatic shift occurs in the second part, however, when the cathedral transmissions curator blends the source materials into a blurry drone that largely smothers the individual sounds heard in part one (the clearest exception being the brief piano flourish which brings the piece to a close). speaking of formats, friday night choir practice is one recording that could most benefit from a twelve-inch presentation, as its parts would naturally split onto two vinyl sides.