Taking place regularly on Saturday afternoons, Daylight Music is a long-running ‘pay-what-you-feel’ concert series at Islington’s Union Chapel that showcases leading talents within instrumental and electronic music. For Daylight Music’s 274th edition, curator Ben Eshmade brought over London’s formidable DunningWebsterUnderwood group and newly established ensemble Solo Collective, from Germany.
Formed of Alex Stolze (violin), Anna Müller (cello) – who famously featured on Nils Frahm’s soundtrack for Victoria (2015), and Sebastian Reynolds (piano), Solo Collective opened with a set of serene, atmospheric soundscapes. Surrounded by an array of cables and equipment, the musicians weaved together textures through effects pedals and Reynold’s prepared electronic material. Moving from proto-melodical expressionist movements into more waltz-like melancholic sounds, they shifted towards more structured pieces with space for each solo artist to add their mark. It was a calming, poignant set with the soft winter light falling into the chapel.
The mood was attentive, and with a warm welcome the DunningWebsterUnderwood group came onto the stage. A well-balanced ensemble consisting of established solo artists - Graham Dunning on one turntable, Colin Webster on tenor sax, and Sam Underwood on tuba – DWU have a focused sound palette that places acoustic instrumentation at its core. When asking Webster about whether he considered using effects processing he expressed the almost overwhelming possibilities of going down this route, choosing to use limitation as his primary way of pushing the boundaries of his instrument. Gusts of air moved through the saxophone as vibrations of his reed filled the space with delicate textures, using flutter tonging (a wind instrumental technique) to create oscillations in the sound. The opening moments established each player, with Underwood producing sustained notes on the tuba. Like a distant fog-horn, the pedal notes began to blend with Webster’s interjections. Dunning’s battered dubplates provided harder textures as he adjusted the apparatus with a kit of dental utensils and nudging hand gestures on the turntables. Dunning’s reputation extends from his DIY/punk approach to his music, creating his own modifications centered around the turntable – here he had an additional tone arm so that two needles were in contact with the records.
Dissonant drones spread through the chapel, underlayed with raw static pulses in which Dunning would coax feedback signals to provide overtones – later Dunning’s gritty loops would provide the basis of the narrative, as he introduced different moods. Fluttering tuba notes grumbled beneath and it wasn’t long before we arrived at a point where three became one - each voice in the ensemble blending into a dynamic wash of timbres and textures. The ensemble were playing off each other and blending into a concentrated body of sound, the sax now sounding didgeridoo-like with deep, rasping notes and panning effects coming from the turntable. Soundscapes were littered with undecipherable voices, and examples of Dunning’s perceptive playing were further revealed as a shouting child in the audience was matched with the sound of child voice recordings on vinyl.
As well-established musicians on the UK circuit, this was a great example of contemporary live experimental performance, full of musicianship and sensitive playing.