Adam Bohman

Last Orders
Mycophile / SPOR03

Adam Bohman / various instruments and objects, Jonathan Bohman / various objects

Adam Bohman is one of a relatively new generation of performers who seem to play everything and nothing; people who play things, bits and bobs, just stuff, whatever’s around. There’s a violin, but it’s stuck to a table and attacked with blunt instruments. Surrounding it are a plethora of domestic and more exotic things wired up to contact mikes and struck, rubbed, chafed, chivvied, bothered and caused by other means to resonate. Bohman hunches studiously over his table, as if it housed a collection of artefacts in the British Museum.

The noises which one can make with household objects and weirdly mutilated instruments are well-known and documented. Further, it is a striking idea that one might use common household objects to make art, elevating them to the status of that most fetishised of tools, the musical instrument. But the act of playing music on a toy telephone has, like Duchamp’s urinal, lost its ability to constructively shock. Now we are left with the question of whether or not, on this occasion, good music is being made from these raw materials.

The answer is resoundingly in the affirmative. Bohman has a vast array of effects at his disposal, and he is as much a virtuoso as one can be on wine glasses and springs. Eschewing the usual tendency of the tabletop musician towards abstract, gestural percussion, he has created here eight soundscapes each of which has its own distinctive feel, its own inner logic. Some change and evolve over their usually moderate length. Some are static, ambient textures which emerge and then die away again. They are never boring and never leave you wondering why a particular musical route has been taken; they are, in other words, remarkably accessible.

Also unlike other practitioners, Bohman prefers to disguise the sources of his sounds. He is not so interested, it would appear, in the conceptual possibilities of making music with mass produced plastic widgets while considering the eminent violin suitable for the job only after extensive and rather brutal modifications involving nails, bits of wood and crocodile clips. Instead of drawing attention to the uniqueness of his materials, he prefers to foreground their conventional musicality. Not that this is “conventional” in any mainstream sense, but what Bohman does with objects echoes what is being done with electronics and (to a lesser extent) with classical ensembles in their respective avant gardes. At the same time, the pieces on this album sound like nothing else, and one can only assume that their coherence and common elements are down to the fact that they sound like Adam Bohman.

What might be surprising is the fact — sensibly withheld from the sleeve notes — that these pieces started life as backing tracks, to which Bohman would presumably add an additional layer when performing live. While there is fun to be had for the bedroom improviser here, these tracks also stand alone as perfectly self-sufficient, and perhaps their genesis has leant them the economy and unflustered contemplativeness which considerably enriches them. Richard Cochrane