"One day, I hope, the story will be written. The story of the group IST and its relationship to the birth of the music that subsequently became variously known as 'New London Silence' or 'Lower Case Improv' (and yes, I use those upper case letters intentionally).
Perhaps the learned critics (who seem very rarely to actually ask the musicians) will tell us just what our place is in this history. Certainly we were not the first - Rhodri and Mark were much influenced by Radu Malfatti and Phil Durrant (among others) at this time (or so it seemed to me), but we were among the first. From my own personal point of view, playing this new kind of provocatively distilled music seemed like a coherently radical response to the expansive intensity of groups such as Hession/Wilkinson/Fell and Descension. I have always had a certain sinful pride in the breadth of my discography at this time, and looking back I'm still impressed by the fact that at one period I was simultaneously playing with Descension and IST.
These two groups have more in common than their radical diversity, however. Perhaps more than any other groups in which I've participated, each performance by these ensembles seemed to represent a kind of manifesto - a real challenging of the ways a certain number of our audience might have of thinking about music, and what it should be. But whilst Descension's discography amounts to one appallingly-recorded and long out-of-print CD, we are fortunate that IST was much better documented on numerous occasions.
It's only fair to point out that IST didn't begin with the purity it later developed. The very early recordings released on the 'Anagrams To Avoid' LP show a group still wedded to the music of free, unrestrained activity. But the chemical processes resulting from the combining of Rhodri and Mark didn't take long to come to fruition (my act of introducing Rhodri to Mark and vice versa might one day merit me a footnote in someone's thesis).
One such 'manifesto' performance was our appearance at Berlin's Total Music Meeting in 2001. Perhaps it is difficult for some people now to understand the significance of a group such as ours playing at the Total Music Meeting at that time. I don't intend to write this history now either, but from a free/improvised music point of view Berlin in 2001 was far from the place it is now - a chapter in the history of free music was drawing to a close, but for the moment the old ways of doing things still reigned supreme.
We played the music you will hear on this recording - and not for the first time caused quite a stir. In particular, a younger generation of Berlin musicians seemed to feel the musical permafrost cracking. The response of the audience at the end of our set - those who had stayed - gives some flavour of the impact of this performance.
Of course, this is all somewhat of a storm in a teacup. We didn't change the world, perhaps we didn't even change the Berlin musical world. But we did play a short but exceptional set; the music is here to hear, the rest you can decide for yourself." Simon H. Fell (May 2013)
Rhodri Davies / harp
Simon H. Fell / double bass
Mark Wastell / violoncello
Recorded at Total Music Meeting, Podewil, Berlin in 2001.
Available as 320k MP3 or 16bit FLAC
1. Berlin - 31:35
Mark Wastell has been active as a musician since 1995, making his initial concerts with the trio IST featuring Rhodri Davies and Simon H. Fell. He has performed and recorded extensively and has collaborated with the likes of Derek Bailey, John Butcher, Evan Parker, Lasse Marhaug, John Tilbury, Mattin, Mark Sanders, Tony Conrad, Tim Barnes, Bernhard Günter, Keith Rowe, John Zorn, Peter Kowald, Joachim Nordwall, Otomo Yoshihide, Burkhard Beins, Paul Dunmall, David Toop, Alan Wilkinson, Max Eastley, Hugh Davies, Julie Tippetts and David Sylvian. Mark also runs the Confront Recordings record label.
Rhodri Davies plays harp, electric harp, live-electronics and builds wind, water and fire harp installations. His regular groups include: a duo with John Butcher, The Sealed Knot, a trio with David Toop and Lee Patterson, Common Objects, Cranc, a trio with John Tilbury and Michael Duch, SLW and Apartment House. In 2008 he collaborated with the visual artist Gustav Metzger on ‘Self-cancellation’, a large- scale audio-visual collaboration in London and Glasgow. He also performs and researches contemporary music. New pieces for harp have been composed for him by: Eliane Radigue, Christian Wolff, Ben Patterson, Alison Knowles, Michael Pisaro, Carole Finer, Mieko Shiomi, Radu Malfatti and Yasunao Tone.
Simon Fell has spent much of the past 20 years trying to refine various syntheses of composition, improvisation and jazz. In 1989, he was awarded an Arts Council Jazz Bursary to complete the composition Compilation II for 9 musicians and electronics; a recording was released in 1990. Fell was awarded a composer's research and development bursary by the Arts Council in 1993 to compose Compilation III, a large-scale work for concert pianist, free jazz trio, rock guitarist, jazz orchestra, electronics and tape; a recording of a revised version for 42 musicians appeared in 1998. He has also received commissions from, among others, Eastern Arts, The Termite Club, Leeds University, Haverhill Town Council and Yorkshire & Humberside Arts. His compositions for London Improvisers Orchestra include Papers, Happy Families, Köln Klang, Ellington 100 (Strayhorn 85) and Three Mondrians; recent works for SFQ include Thirteen Rectangles, Six Bells Pieces and ...the old style...