Review – soundzero

There is a sound processing technique, the details of which are kept secret by Philip Clemo, the keyboard player and all-round studio don of soundzero, whereby the common frequencies of two different sounds (bowed cymbals and a moving train, say, or a choir and a shortwave radio) are combined and all the other frequencies are discarded. What do you get? Brilliant noises. soundzero is full of them.

Philip Clemo and Mee, a Royal College of Music graduate who plays a unique instrument called the ‘metal violin’ are the two core members of the group and produce an electric-organic species of moving ‘jazz electronica’ (in the words of Mee) that references – however unintentionally – electric period Miles, Bill Laswell with his left-field internationalist head on, The Necks, Robert Fripp, early Trilok Gurtu, Don Cherry and experimentalists like Paul Sch¸tze. Assembled from field recordings made globally and from the performances of musicians like the tabla player Bobby Singh, the percussionist Pete Lockett, the drummer Mark Sanders and an extensively processed Cleveland Watkiss, Mee and Clemo’s second album is multi-textured, surprising and altogether unorthodox.

“I’d build a structure for a piece, starting with sound recordings and manipulations, and then Mee would come and improvise to what I’d done. Then I’d rework the whole structure to adapt to what she’d done. Eventually it sounds live because everyone’s responding to each other”, explains Philip…”Things come in and out of focus, and often sounds and instruments are separated from their cultural references, so people will ask “is that a voice or an instrument?”

Mee and Philip have splendid ears for space and the dynamics of rhythm and sound too, and the result moves. It’s serious stuff. You can catch them live in London with Coldcut and the Aphex Twin at Bar AKA in West Central St WC2.

Neil Bennun, Straight No Chaser, UK