Rasp is the new project of violinist and vocalist Matt Howden, and cellist Jo Quail. This album was created in a two-hour live writing session in front of an audience; performed that evening at a local theatre; and recorded with an audience in the studio, the very next evening. Two days from conception to ready-to-release!
All tracks were written and performed by Matt Howden and Jo Quail, live at Club60 Recording studio, Sheffield, England. Recorded by Paul Blakeman. Produced by Matt Howden at Redroom studio, Sheffield, England. Mastered for CD by Dan Worrall at The Laundry Rooms. Sleeve design by Martin Bedford.
Listen with headphones, if you can, close your eyes and imagine you’re in a vault that is nearly that dark. The ceiling is low, but the space stretches out to the sides. The air carries a kind of vibrant warmth.
Providing this are a man and a woman, loop pedals at their feet. She cradles the outline of a cello –electric, a beautiful skeleton. From this embrace emerge bass-lines, riffs, deep wells of harmony. He sings or recites a kind of beat poetry, conjuring up hooks and melodies from his violin, or kneeling to trigger a sample or beat from a laptop on the floor. In perfect sync, they dovetail in and out of each other’s music.
The loops swirling around them and us, she steps back momentarily from the cello, lifts her head and smiles, while he whirls his bow on his fingertip before snapping it still to play on.
For about an hour, these two writer-performers made this riot of sound coalesce into the immersive live experience you’re hearing now. Two days earlier, Rasp didn’t exist.
Matt Howden and Jo Quail had collided at concerts before, and soon identified each other as kindred spirits with genuine onstage chemistry. They make very different music as individuals. Matt, a master songwriter, places haunting, concise lyrics over interlocking repeats and rhythms. Jo is a gifted composer of emotionally searching instrumentals that surround the captive listener. But there is a linked aesthetic: both operate strings on the dark side of folk, and both tend to perform alone, building the songs up in layers –same approach, always new results.
The Rasp idea emerged as a way to collaborate further while sidestepping clashing schedules and commitments. What if they went through the creative process – writing, performing and recording their album – but in only two days?
As the project took life, it became as much an event as a record. The writing session was limited to two hours, and took place in front of an audience (live in the studio and online). Matt and Jo each brought ideas and fragments that would all need input from the other to turn them into fully-fledged tracks. Performing as Rasp the same evening, the pair honed the material further, before recording the whole suite to analogue tape – in front of an invited, amazed crowd – the next night.
Rasp could only happen because Matt and Jo are on the creative form of their lives. Outside it, they were both working on extraordinary solo records. Rasp sounds like neither. A punk ethos replaces painstaking precision, and with as much improvisation as composition, they career through electronica, noise, free jazz, folk, classical and even spoken word. Their mutual energy must have been truly kinetic, propelling them to another destination entirely. A shared adventure, an uncharted landing.
Adrian Ainsworth, April 2014 http://adrianspecs.blogspot.co.uk/