July 19 2011: The Estates & The New Town Suite by Peter Hall (Prototype Records, 1977)
This LP was found at the Colwick bootsale a few years ago and despite having no idea whatsoever what it might sound like, it looked interesting enough to take a chance on, partly as a result of the tantalising cover photograph, but also because the title track (according to the brief sleevenotes) was created for the launch of South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell, Berkshire, in 1975.
The two cuts featured here, a sixteen minute instrumental New Town Suite and the twenty-five minute The Estates, were both recorded at Pathway Studios, London, during 1974 – 5, and the LP itself dates from 1977; it’s presumably a private press or very small label – this is the first release on the otherwise unheard-of Prototype imprint, whose second release, also by Hall, appeared almost a decade later, in 1985.
Both the tracks present a strange mix of jazz and modern classical influences, with some occasional dynamics clearly drawn from rock, and this gives them a very distinctive flavour: experimental but accessible, certainly very British sounding, and for all the difficulty of categorising their sound, definitely an interesting listen: their broader context, as works commissioned and performed at the opening of a New Town arts centre, only adds to the fascination.
The key figure is composer and guitarist Peter Hall, who is credited as the creator of a genre of Industrial Sound Sculptures, which after listening to this LP certainly makes sense. The chamber-style New Town Suite is a trio built around double bass and flute while the line-up expands on The Estates to a seven-piece featuring cimbalom (in fact, adapted piano frames), clarinet, twelve string guitar, electric bass and the full range of percussion.
The general ambience throughout is of something that might sit happily in the catalogue of Trunk Records, and these recordings certainly deserve a wider hearing.
Click on the links below to listen to the tracks:
Note that since this post was first published, Hall has reissued much of his older work online and been releasing new material, including a limited release CD, ‘Embarkation‘, on the Clay Pipe Music label. You can check his website here and the links above now go directly to Hall’s Bandcamp site, where remastered versions of two of the three ‘Estates’ tracks can be found and purchased directly from the artist. Sadly, ‘Duet No.1 For Guitar and Violin’ is still only available on the original Prototype release as far as I can tell.