Scorching Bay | Discography | John Metcalfe

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John Metcalfe

Scorching Bay | Discography | John Metcalfe

  • Artist: John Metcalfe
  • Title: Scorching Bay
  • Label: Black Box
  • Release date: 3 May 2004

1. Bend In The Road
2. 8
3. 7 Days Later
4. First Major Upset Of The Tournament
5. Scorching Bay
6. Fabrine
7. Curve Of The Sand
8. Rocket
9. Cuba Street
10. Scooter
11. I Don't Remember You Wearing A Watch

Limited edition copies of 'Scorching Bay' include free cd 'The Inner Line II'


1. Inner Line
2. Blue Ruby
3. Eh No No
4. George
5. Groovy Dog
6. Joe
7. Moving On
8. Ray B
9. Schoenberg
10. Suspicion
11. Thrill Is Gone
12. 95
13. 1916

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John Metcalfe - Scorching Bay

John L. Walters - The Guardian Friday Review - "John Metcalfe's strings and electronics are impeccable."

John Metcalfe's Scorching Bay (Black Box, 13.99) is an example of what you might call the "logical tendency" - music constructed thoughtfully and carefully from considerations of sound and music, with little to dilute it. He is best known as a performer, playing viola in the Duke Quartet and on sessions, but this album - very much a labour of love despite its high production values - is the expression of Metcalfe's compositional personality, which splashes happily across several streams of current music-making. All of this is entirely appropriate for someone who trained at the RNCM in Manchester while playing in the Durutti Column and kick-starting the influential Factory Classical Label.

Like Metcalfe's earlier CD, The Inner Line (packaged as a free extra with the new album), Scorching Bay is on a classical label that asks us to "file under electronica". Much of the music seems to have been developed from synthesizer sequences and expert knob-twiddling, but there's also prominently featured guitar, viola, violin and keyboards from Metcalfe himself, plus real drums, bass and cello. There's no hint of lo-fi messiness: Scorching Bay is clean and credible, a well constructed album of through-composed variations that lead logically to a satisfying conclusion. But it's Metcalfe's skill with strings that give the work an emotional punch.

You could compare it to The Orchestra, or Graham Fitkin's recent Kaplan, but Metcalfe goes much further in integrating transparent electronics with more visceral and rhythmic performance elements. Despite some soppy moments, the best bits of Scorching Bay are as "pure" as a piano study or a solo improvisation: the way the multi-tracked strings mesh with Ralph Salmins's busy beats on First Major Upset of the Tournament; the trance-like tension sustained on Scooter.

The relaxed title track hints both at Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint and the way that minimalist classic was appropriated by the Orb. You could compare some of Metcalfe's work to those oddball library albums that DJs plunder from time to time, but Scorching Bay is not kitsch. And it isn't tied down by any "school" or subculture or trend, which seems entirely logical.'

Classical Music Web - "... mesmerising rhythmic sounds ... a sense of developing drama, skilfully contrived with exciting contrast between percussion and strings ... chamber forces are imaginatively used by the composer and the music is played with great conviction."

John Sunier, Audiophile Audition: "A remarkable achievement in new music that neatly dances over all the categories of jazz, classical, minimalist, whathaveyou. there are no notes about composer / performer Metcalfe. since scorching bay is identified as being in New Zealand, one gathers that is his home base.

The notes only indicate that he regards the dozen tracks as basically one composition, and he limited the amount of thematic material used in each track. The opening track has many new themes, and in the following tracks these themes are modified in various ways but must preserve the exact pitches and rhythms of the original with variation. By the final track there is only material left which has been used several times over.

I was unable to identify exact themes but there is a similar quality of tonal, perhaps modal melodies here, often spun out over a highly motoric rhythmic base. Metcalfe has obviously been layering in many tracks of his various instruments; in the track first major upset... for instance, there is a rich string orchestra backing which with the guitar or piano solo over it reminded me of my favorite modern jazz album - Stan Getz' focus.

The guitar is sometimes electrified but with a subtlety that works out well with the other stringed instruments in the ensemble. curve of the sand has a lovely cello voice over new age-sounding highly reverbed piano ostinato. While there is considerable repetition - as with much modern music - Metcalfe seems to be able to maintain interest with slightly unexpected turns that offer relief from a philip glassy stuck-groove sort of sound.

The self-imposed limitations seem to call forth superb creativity from Metcalfe - as similar various constrictions have sparked composers to greater achievement for hundreds of years. The overall mood struck me as a sort of sunnier, warmer version of what has come to be known as the ECM sound.

I couldn't recommend this album more, and if you want more after hearing it, you need look no further than the free bonus disc included. It features the same cellist and drummer, no bassist but two other violinists - and Metcalfe does not play piano on this one, which appears to be an earlier version of what he is doing on Scorching Bay.

In fact, speaking of restrictions calling forth new creativity, one of the tracks is titled Schoenberg (he would have said that is one of the advantages of working with an unchanging tone row in serial composition, for example) but don't misunderstand - this is not Swiss cheese music, but lovely, flowing, tonal chamber music. One of the bonus tracks involves some repeated vocal declamations, another has a wordless vocalise, and this outing was a bit more minimalist.

John Metcalfe - Scorching Bay