Nightports w/ Betamax

The improvised drumming of he Comet is Coming's Betamax is the star of this collaboration with electronic duo Nightports, finds Cal Cashin

Nightports are the collaborative project of Adam Martin and Mark Slater. Their current project is thus: the duo invite a collaborator into their glitching realm. They will be asked to improvise for long periods of time. Once they’ve ceased, Nightports will manipulate the recordings into one cohesive artwork, editing and chopping until some kind of perfection is achieved

Their most recent collaborator is Betamax, aka Max Hallett, the razortight drummer in cosmic jazz outliers Comet is Coming. Nightports and Betamax, the album, features the virtuoso playing, alongside manipulated electronic melodies, taken from the recordings of Betamax’s drumming – and not a single sound more.

The jazz drummer’s output to date is characterised by one thing. Propulsion. With the Comet is Coming, his percussive cycles propel Shabaka Hutchings’ fiery saxophone motifs into outer space; it’s Danalogue’s electronic work that gives the Comet is Coming it’s astral feel, but it’s Betamax’s drumming that transform the duo from cosmic lurchers to an x-wing squadron hurtling through the outer rim.

Betamax has a similar effect on this record; his quick fire tubthumping is front and centre, and it’s certainly something. On ‘Fourteenth’, his hurtling beats sound more look a giddy machine, so tight and rapid are they. Electronic drones are icy and glacial, but Betamax’s playing makes them sound otherworldly. Propulsion is the name of the game.

Hearing the album, the nature of its conception makes it all the stranger. The Nightports drones are responses to the Betamax fills, but they’re not in real time. On ‘Amalgam’, golden ambience is made possible by the steady and self assured improvisation of the drummer – his kit here sounds so satisfying, cloaked in reverb and fuzz. On ‘Ritual’, the drumming is far more jumped-up, and Nightports’ textural whimsy responds thus. It is essentially like a Comet is Coming song, with organic sax euphoria replaced by nebulous clouds of electronic smoke.

This album is a thought-provoking undertaking. It is made interesting by its wild-eyed invention, and Nightports’ constant ability to get melody and ambience from the recordings they’re working with. But it’s made enjoyable by the energetic performance of Betamax behind the drum kit. Nightports and Betamax is one of those endlessly satisfying albums; the sounds are crisp, like the air once you get beyond the M25 boundary, and everything is in the right place.

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