We would set up a bunch of instruments in the room, run the tape and go. No rules. It was 1984 and that kind of just-for-the-fun-of-it indulgence was de-rigeur around the studio. I think the most evocative of the many jam recordings we made then was the free-form material from which this album, Casuals, was derived. It was edited and remastered from an audio cassette which languished in a box for decades, to be presented as a suite of sixteen pieces in four parts. So far so prog.
Casuals was unusual and distinctive and not very prog at all. Mainly acoustic (piano, bass, guitar, percussion) with some electric here and there (fretless bass, synth) it combined the soft textures of chill with the anarchic sensibility of punk. Its lack of structure allowed us to go wherever we felt. Responses complemented and clashed. There was a lot of meandering. As such the sound was naturalistic capturing messiness and unpredictability compared to the order of conventional modes. Although there was discernible tempo and vaguely recognisable key signatures the sonic palette was otherwise absent of ordinary form. It was dissonant and disjointed with an occasional flourish when the instruments came together as if in a written work.
These jams might’ve been transformed into something more ordered by using the improvisations as sketches for further development. Given that all composition has its roots in improv that would not have been untypical. More valuable however was to leave them rough with roots and workings exposed. Using the material as a draft for something “composed” would have rounded the edges thereby losing the vitality of a spontaneous moment.
The results were a mix of shadow and light, the dark bits seriously so such as in Leviathan (track 6) whose textures created with keyboard and sax made Zawinul and Shorter seem easy listening. There were just as many respites often with a return to four in the bar percussion, sometimes in a major key with splashes of pentatonic melody. The odd bit of swing and even latin found its place too.
The obvious genre for Casuals was free-form but I think “chill-punk” would've been a better tag. The music worked well played loudly. I pictured it blasting away in an artist’s studio with the restless rhythms and constant changing of the colour an aid to the painter as she dashed manically at a canvas. A fanciful notion was that but so were these recordings when they were first laid down almost thirty years ago.
For lateral ears only.
CLARK SORLEY+ ... Casuals
Clark piano, DX7
Larry acoustic & electric bass
Henry percussion, guitar
produced Clark Sorley
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