Group Listening is a new project by Stephen Black and Paul Jones. Their debut album Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works Vol.1 is a collection of ambient works – from the likes of Brian Eno, Arthur Russell, Euros Childs and Robert Wyatt – arranged for clarinet and piano.
Having met at Music College, Stephen and Paul went separate ways creatively. Stephen delved into pop, recording albums and touring extensively under the guise of Sweet Baboo, while working with Cate Le Bon, H. Hawkline and others. Paul leaned into the piano, pursuing a career as a jazz pianist and experimental musician. He played with Keith Tippett, formed the Jones O’Connor group, performed with noise improv bands and composed orchestral and chamber music. Reconnecting years later, the pair discovered that their music tastes, bizarrely, met in the middle; they have a shared love of The Beach Boys, Ghost Box Records, Messiaen and Angela Morley. They both like ambient and new age music, bubblegum pop, Artie Shaw, Moondog and the outsider music handbook Songs in the Key of Z.
Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works Vol.1 is the spontaneous, beguiling culmination of this friendship. Cutting out post-production and keeping overdubs to a bare minimum, the pair passed their clarinet and piano through guitar stomp boxes and other analogue effects to enable processing and manipulation directly in performance. The result hums with the ghostly energy of sound pioneers Joe Meek and Martin Hannett, while mbira and drum machines are sparingly deployed amid enveloping folds of space echo. Like Virginia Astley or Simon Jeffes, Group Listening tread the overlap between classical and experimental music. Perhaps most startling here is the breadth of material arranged as one atmospheric whole. The pieces range from the ever-spiraling, fractal phrases of German composer Roedelius to the haunting rasps of Hollywood and game soundtracker Disasterpeace, via the groundbreaking sonics of early electronic inventor Raymond Scott. Somehow, shot through Group Listening’s electro-acoustic lens, these works evolve into something supremely calming, poignant and new