Rychard Carrington reports on Fractofusus - Hot Numbers, Cambridge, 2 June 2013

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire

No music quite has the excitement of improvised music. Of course it can sound fractious and chaotic, but performed by players with a deep feel for music and a deep understanding of each other it can open up exhilarating new realms. Such was certainly the case this evening, when Fractofusus perfomed at Williams Art (one half of the excellent Hot Numbers, a cafe with a jazz theme and coffee for connoisseurs), adapting their current show Making Sound Sense of Trees to accompany the exhibtion Silver Silvium: Prints, Paintings and Drawings Celebrating Trees by Cambridgeshire visual artists John Preston and Neil Warmsley.


Fractofusus produce music that is utterly fresh and unpredictable, yet also meditative. Subtle dissonances creates a sound that sends the listener's mind drifting into intriguing profound territory, stilmulating unconscious exploration and resolution (well, to an extent dependent upon the particular listener, obviously). Very apposite for a celebration of trees, in fact.


Fractofusus sound like they've been playing together every day for years, yet in fact they only formed two years ago, evolving within Oxford Improvisers, and Amy Thakurdas, an experienced solo improviser from Los Angeles, only joined this year. Amy plays French horn, Trish Elphinstone saxophone, Jill Elliott fiddle and Camilla Cancantata trombone. Anne L Ryan completes the group on vocals.


Each musician is a specialist yet also versatile. Anne's vocal expertise and experience is pivotal, yet each member uses vocals with skill and imagination. The second number, Poe-Tree, was an a capella improvisation building upon names of trees. In the third number, Tree Matters, each of the five in turn explored the sounds produced by various parts of trees (unseen until the moment) contained in paper bags, in both solo performance and dilalogue. For the penultimate number, Singing Ringing, each member took up a Tibetan bowl to produce a particularly serene sound, before the lively finale with instruments and Anne's extraordinary vocals, Fractal Fronds.


In  the middle of the set there was a suite of three improvisations based on specific pictures in the exhibition: Anne and Amy dialogued with non-verbal vocals on a picture 'Weeping Ash and Plane Tree', Trish played sax to 'Snow and Water' and Jill and Camilla responded to 'Coton Tree Shadow' with trombone and fiddle.  


This is music that is not just radically different, not just interesting: it is both thrilling and calming. stimulating and healing.


Writer: Rychard Carrington