“The Stone House” features two of today’s most original, risk-taking guitarists; the UK’s Mark Wingfield and Germany’s Markus Reuter. They are joined for this session by Israeli born UK transplants, bassist Yaron Stavi and drummer Asaf Sirkis.
The concept behind this recording was to incorporate many of the elements which have drawn listeners to progressive music for decades, embracing a whole host of genre leaping influences, from free jazz, rock, ambient, psychedelic, trance, fusion and much more besides. The music on the album was completely improvised with none of the music written down or rehearsed. An ambitious project then, and one that when looking at the musicians involved really does whet the appetite.
Having listened to the album several times, whilst I can fully appreciate the undoubted skill of the musicians involved, I have to say I’m left a little cold by the resulting sound that courses it’s way through my ears and brain. A simplified explanation or summary of genre that forces its way from my lips, is ‘Stoner-Jazz’. Don’t get me wrong, there are some high points to the album, most notably Sirkis’ incredible drumming which makes the album worth a listen to in its own right. And the undoubted quality of the two electric guitarists, with sounds shifting effortlessly and effects ranging from harsh to even harsher to metal to grunge to ambient to vitriolic shape-shifting and back again, is very impressive. But overall, as much as it grieves me to say this, it just sounds soulless.
Perhaps in the grand theatre of invention, a key element sometimes gets forgotten. And that key element is that somewhere there needs to be either cohesion, or emotion, to enable the audience to ‘get’ what they are listening to. For me I’m not getting either of these things. I dare say that at the time the quartet felt it, but to my ears something somewhere has got lost in translation between the live session that makes up this album, and the audience who listen to it. Others will no doubt disagree, but I can only speak as I find.
Recording spontaneous and improvised music is a risk, one that to my mind will always be well worth taking. Sometimes the results will be nothing short of revelatory and astonishing. And sometimes it just doesn’t work as well for the listener as for the musicians giving their all on the music they are making. For me, although “The Stone House” is most certainly not without merit, it does fall into the latter of the two aforementioned categories.