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David Toop & Max Eastley . New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments

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In 1974, David Toop published a book titled ‘New/Rediscovered Instruments’, a survey of self-build instruments in the UK, including articles on the likes of Hugh Davies, Paul Burwell, Evan Parker, Paul Lytton, David Toop and Max Eastley. From 1972, he ran a BBC radio show co-hosted with Eastley, mixing ethnic music with home made field recordings, a novelty at the time (information above from Toop’s book Ocean Of Sound, 1995). ‘The Divination Of The Bowhead Whale’ is structured by Frank Perry’s sparse gong reverberations, the ensemble resuming playing only after the end of a specific gong strike. Perry played percussion on the legendary 1973 Ovary Lodge LP with Keith Tippet. The track also embarks Hugh Davies’ grill harp and a bowed guitar. The music sounds like a field recording from a zen garden ceremony. Toop’s opening and closing tracks explore the fragility of his hushed falsetto, be it backed by sparse instruments on ‘The Chairs Story’, or acappela with a few chorus interjections from Eno, Munro and Jones on the finale. Using nature and natural elements as musical source and/or instruments is one of Max Eastley’s most striking skills. His self-build hydrophone, for instance, produces a striking banshee-like whining sound, complete with the river stream and wind recording. The comparison with Henry Cowell’s ‘The Banshee’ (1925) and ‘The Aeolian Harp’ (1923) is interesting (listen here). Besides, there’s something gothic and unsettling in the sounds here, not unlike some Walter Scott ghost story. The Elastic Aerophone is a wind-propelled instrument similar to the one featured in the gorgeous video below. The whole LP is quite unique and hard to categorize.
Notes by Continuo

    Max Eastley

  1. Hydrophone (8:57)
  2. Metallophone (6:53)
  3. The Centriphone (4:51)
  4. Elastic Aerophone/Centriphone (4:53)David Toop
  5. The Chairs Story (3:08)
  6. The Divination Of The Bowhead Whale (13:25)
  7. Do The Bathosphere (2:38)

Total time: 44:40
LP released on Island Records, Obscure #4, 1975

Max Eastley: Hydrophone, Metallophone, Centriphone, Aerophone
David Toop: voice, Prepared Electric Guitar, Bowed Chordophone, flute, water
Frank Perry: percussion
Paul Burwell: Bass Drums, Lorry Hub, String Fiddle
Brian Eno: Prepared Bass Guitar, vocals
Hugh Davies: grill harp
Chris Munro: vocals
Phil Jones: vocals

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