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Chris Morphitis — Where To Go (2013)

Chris Morphitis — Where To Go (November 4th, 2013)

Chris Morphitis — Where To Go

The Official Logo by B.T. Amundssen´s Harvest Prize & Tais Awards 2014 for nominated artists & works
Location: c
Album release: November 4th, 2013
Record Label: Village Green  VGCD011
Duration:     37:26
01 The Count       3:31
02 Claustro       5:16
03 Embrace      2:16
04 Yellow Lines      4:41
05 Timelapse      3:06
06 Peel Feel       4:02
07 If S2      4:40
08 Where To Go      3:39
09 Coat Tails      4:09
10 Chartwell      3:06
•  Chris Morphitis: Guitars, Bouzouki, Production
•  Tom Skinner: Drums
•  Hassan Erraji: Violin
•  Tom Herbert: Double bass
•  Ian Burdge: Cello
•  Dorian Ford: Piano

¶   "Composer, guitarist and producer Chris Morphitis releases his debut album through Village Green. Recorded in his suburban garden shed, the album merges Morphitis’ love of Zimbabwean and Greek music with his intuitive passion for experimentalism. Known for performing with and producing bands that reworks traditional folk music including MOBO nominated Best African Act The Owiny Sigoma Band (2011) and Greek psych band Mavrika (2012). ‘Where To Go’ beautifully combines the influence of Gustavo Santaolalla’s Latin American folk and Steve Reich’s African styled rhythms. For fans of Steve Reich, David Pajo / Papa M, Gustavo Santaolalla, Dirty Three.
¶   Commencing with a mixture of improvised and pre-written material, Morphitis built the album up from recorded takes of complete live performances, the idea being to retain any imperfections and sense of spontaneity. With this in mind he also chose to record with a combination of musicians who specialised in improvisation.
¶   “Hassan Erraji, a Moroccan musician and a wild-card improviser, always shocks me with how he hears and interprets my music. I paired him up with a musician from a completely different background, the British classical cellist Ian Burdge, to form a string section. They share similar ground in the sense they produce a very high quality of tone, but their pitching (Hassan plays Arabic music with many microtonal differences to Western classical temperament) and tone is very different to each other. They are almost opposite ends of the spectrum, but together they created a beautiful string section, but not in the conventional sense.”
¶   Composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who pioneered the fusion of his Argentinian roots with rock, soul, African rhythms and Latin American folk, was a big influence on the album. “He opened up the possibility that music made in a personal and intimate way can be just as moving and atmospheric as a full orchestral film-score,” explains Morphitis.
¶   Morphitis was also drawn to Steve Reich’s ‘Electric Counterpoint’ a piece of music he recorded and performed for his final recital at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. ¶   Reich's rhythms get in your blood just like the West-African music he is emulating. ¶   It’s familiar, but totally original. It can sound euphoric and melodic, but also like a very precise and cerebral experience. How he abstracts traditional music and creates something brand new is something I and wanted to revisit on this album.
¶   Expanding on some of the albums tracks, Morphitis explains:
¶   The Count: “Dedicated to my little baby Alexi nicknamed ‘The Count’. The piece starts from small vague sounding melodies, played on piano, cello and violin, double bass and classical and electric guitar. The idea is that these small fragments come together increasingly throughout the piece and a clearer picture emerges."
¶   Chartwell: “This piece is an impression of the sound I would hear backstage before a Chartwell Dutiro gig. He would start the gig off with a solo mbira song. This song would set the tone for the rest of the night. Chartwell is my musical idol.”
¶   Where To Go: “I tried to write something that worked in a different way to the other pieces on the album. I wanted it to develop in texture and harmony in a slow simple way but at the same time have thousands of miniature details that sounded fast- bit like how a time-lapse film looks. It is one of my favourite pieces on the album because, depending where I sit in front of my speakers I hear a different melody.”
Copyright © 2009 ANOST / Morr Music  /  Fortaken: http://www.anost.net/
Chris Morphitis — Where To Go
by Nicholas Glover, 12 November 2013
¶   This week's best album that was recorded in a garden shed and thankfully doesn't sound like it is, is by composer/producer Chris Morphitis.
¶   Drawing deep on the spirit of improvisation, the compositions on Where To Go can often come across like loosely woven threads held together by infrequently changing root chords. Each song feels like a distinct story, with its own laws of time and space, and with varying degrees of growth and development, and the composer successfully draws strong performances out of his chosen cast of free-thinking co-performers.
¶   Lending their considerable talents to the collection are Hassan Erraji, described by Morphitis as a "wildcard improviser," forming a tight string section with British cellist Ian Burdge, the pair positing very different tones (literally). All the tracks on the album were recorded in live takes, with musicians being chosen not only for their ability, but for their improvisational experience.
¶   The result is a mixed bag of the very gorgeous and ever-so-slightly sugary. 'Claustro' kicks off with a dirgey stoner workout that becomes absorbed into a King Crimson-esque, episodic melody, doing that classic prog thing which has found an outlet with acts like Grails in recent years. Its fusion of gypsy rock and noughties heavy rock could be a readymade soundtrack to Guy Ritchie's steampunk Sherlock Holmes features and feels a little contrived, although I'd love to visit the shed Morphitis recorded it in. He manages to achieve a breezeblock of a drum sound — like those Fosters adverts with the guys dancing around in tin helmets, where the guy looking in says "Bad news mate... it looks like they don't have a toilet."
¶   Let's keep up with the movie / TV references; being entirely instrumental, many of the song structures feel like snippets from modern movie soundtracks — slow-burning, classy, beautifully spaced and mixed.
¶   So 'Yellow Lines' could be straight off Park Chan-wook's Stoker, an uneasy, sophisticated, repressed number with breathey strings and a subby bassline that is hard to pin down to a particular instrument. 'Peel Feel' is Wes Anderson directing Ryan Gosling in a John Hughes-style return to high school drama-comedy, and probably the best thing on display. 'Coat Tails' is a delightful slice of afro-pop, a pyramidic guitar arrangement layered like a Buddhist shrine, heavily influenced by Chartwell Dutiro (something which Morphitis is humble enough to recognise in the accompanying press release).
¶   The less interesting sections are those which allow the composer's saccharine tendencies to show. 'If S2' sounds like Bono scoring the life of Daniel O'Connell, with all the attendant horrors that evokes. It even comes with the non sequitur of a stadium rock mid-section. 'Chartwell' doesn't do a great deal, for a long time, and is a disappointing end to an album that is otherwise pretty consistently enchanting.
¶   Morphitis' roots as a producer are very much on display in the album's leaner moments, with the occasional dead end melody creeping in at times and perhaps a lack of a strong, guiding songwriter to nip off the fat. In its most glorious moments, it is a low key delight. Fortaken: http://thefourohfive.com/ / Website: http://www.chrismorphitis.com/

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