Whistling Arrow: all-star improv group conjure awe-inspiring music

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Whistling Arrow

Ex-Easter Island Head members join an all-star cast that form Whistling Arrow as Getintothis’ Simon Kirk takes a look at their self-titled debut album.

Whistling Arrow is the debut collaboration between critically acclaimed composer and performer, Laura Cannell, composer/improviser, Charles Hayward (This Heat/Camberwell No), multi-instrumentalist, André Bosman, prepared guitar minimalists, Benjamin D. Duvall and Benjamin Fair of Liverpool’s Ex-Easter Island Head and Jonathan Hering (The Aleph) on piano, toy piano and prepared guitar.

Drawing upon a wealth of collaboration experience not limited to Keiji Haino, Arnold Dreyblatt, Thurston Moore and The Raincoats, with their self-titled debut long-player, Whistling Arrow have illuminated some of the darkest corners of sonic sphere.

In the words of spoken word/human hurricane, Stewart Lee:

“If you’ve been searching for an album that suggests a pagan mediaeval aesthetic colliding with an electrified art rock sensibility, to create a mysterious new entity unrecognisable from the sum of its parts, then look no further, true believer. It’s here! Queen Aradia Meets The Rockers Downtown!! Good God!!!”

Enough for you?

Brought together by a shared bill on Cannell‘s Arts Council-funded Modern Ritual tour, the six musicians convened for a single recording session in Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios back in October 2017.

The end result is the awe-inspiring Whistling Arrow, released last Friday via God Unknown Records.

Music aside for a second and any project boasting the name Whistling Arrow can’t be anything but really fucking good and it rings true right here.

Whistling Arrow

Recorded live with few preconceptions other than a fierce appreciation for each others’ work, Whistling Arrow is an inventiveness rarely seen.

Seven tracks at just over 42 minutes, Whistling Arrow is a sizzling broth of ideas and the end result is, surprisingly, more of a streamlined representation of the avant-garde.

Cannell‘s violins supply a melodic framework not a world away from Warren Ellis’ labours with the Dirty Three.

Labradford: a buyer’s guide to a band way ahead of their time

The mallet-struck guitars of Duvall and Fair clash with the manic rattling of strings, motors (yes, motors), bows and Allen keys while Bosman‘s atmospheric electronics permeate with a muggy unease.

The title track is the first arresting moment, with skittish drums, bristling undercurrents of bass and restrained strings. Hayward‘s shadowy rhythms from behind the skins turn into syncopated sprawls that resonate with Simon Reynolds‘ version of post-rock .

Whistling Arrow’s Charles Hayward

In the Wooded Country is sullen shower of bows and strings that provide a gorgeous cinematic drizzle, posing as a centrepiece to one’s soundtrack on their journey to the gates of heaven.

In Flooded Country follows, swelling with a nervous intensity, as a frenetic motorik groan is flanked by a flanged repetitious sonic tidal wave that sounds akin to a coiled spring set to combust.

The spacious arrangements during Chamber Ascent make way for loose percussion sounding like the Dirty Three on downers.

Then there’s closing track, Magician. What starts off as a homage to Mark HollisTalk Talk transforms into an overarching composition that presents itself as the sound of all hope.

Whistling Arrow – Whistling Arrow

On Whistling Arrow, band members morph and mould spacious string arrangements, slender piano and gentle whirrs of synth around Hayward‘s intangible shape shifting percussion. His performance alters this project from an intellectual listening exercise into something sonically accessible with a genuine opportunity to reach new ears.

Given the circumstances behind its conception, the organic nature of Whistling Arrow is perhaps its greatest feat.

You won’t lend an ear to a better improv’ album all year than Whistling Arrow so rest your fingers from crate digging and phone scrolling by enjoying the journey right here.

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