Tether by Hayden Prosser
4. Before Now
6. Out of This
9. Small Chance
11. All (Reprise)
Official release dates (store):
UK (+ world digital) - 12/05/2017
The searching, cyclical aura of double bassist and composer Hayden Prosser’s debut acoustic album Tether fascinatingly finds its roots in electronic and process music. Hailing from Somerset, England, and now based in Berlin, Prosser met up with New York pianist Elias Stemeseder – the starting point for this quartet’s sound with tenor saxophonist Philipp Gropper and drummer Max Santner – which set up the piano-and-bass connectivity that informs many of the album’s eleven original tracks.
Prosser’s compositional angle is often influenced by his transcriptions of electronic phrases and programs – these are then translated into the analogue environment to be expanded upon. ‘All's’ starting motif, for example, mimics synthesized arpeggios, beginning with one strong idea that reshapes itself through improvisation before finally morphing into another. This concept of shaping a single line and then splitting it to be picked up by other instruments, including Gropper’s subtly inviting tenor funk, establishes a strong sense of fluctuating textures and space (its detuned ‘musical box’ piano reprise adding a hint of foreboding). The dynamic, shard-like album art commission illustrates these ideas well – together yet disparate; tense then serene – reflecting both the band’s performing ethos and Prosser’s long, transitional state of relocation to Germany.
‘Tether’, as a title, subliminally references the electronic output of London duo Plaid (their track of the same name is on a go-to album for the bassist), as well as this quartet’s geographic and logistical challenges of rehearsing and performing together. Intentionally blurring compositional and improvisational meeting and parting, Prosser says his evolving, cyclical phrases and melodies are influenced by the work of his tutors, big-name US artists Drew Gress and Chris Lightcap (“bass players write with a different outlook”) as well as the recordings of Craig Taborn and Tim Berne. Rather than the more traditional structure of stating a theme and jumping off it, creative layered instrumentation is allowed throughout, to form differing, overlapping timbres, as in cathartic, slow-burning opener ‘Undo’ and a handful of interspersed, freely-improvised miniatures such as ‘Glas’ and ‘Small Chance’.
‘Season’s’ leaping-bass vivacity deconstructs into limpid pools of quiet, emphasising its intended tectonic instrumental shifts and colorations, while the dark, piano-clustered awakening of ‘Out Of This’ sets up a hypnagogic ambience for Prosser’s gently resonant bass-string pliancy. In ‘Overturn’, Max Santner’s percussive scintillation sparks tenor cascades and a deeply-plumbed piano momentum; and ‘Rounds’’ mesmeric, crescendoing pulse rises out of searing harmonics, echoic piano and instrumental body knocks, with the bassist’s deep groove threaded through.
Hayden Prosser sees progression in this quartet project: “For me, improvisation is about trying to find a special moment where you’re free of thought, playing your instrument in a way that you feel completely comfortable with how the others in your group are also creating. You wait for someone to throw something in, and then you react (I love to work this way, and often it turns out to be with musicians who compose, themselves). You push through the technicalities to get to where everything works, and then look for surprises. That’s necessary. You’re expecting the unexpected.”