Review: Birchall/Cheetham Duo – Tipping Point

When homing in on the minute details of Tipping Point – the sounds and mutations that occur second by second – David Birchall (guitar) and Andrew Cheetham (drums) appear to have a very warped, jittery relationship. Taut strings are pinged and flicked, pitches are bent untidily like the output of a broken tape machine, while beats judder awkwardly into being before collapsing back down to the ground with a bass drum thud. There are some fantastic noises embedded into the tangle of sound courtesy of both players, and sometimes they jut out of the mesh only momentarily: the phased inflation and flatulent deflation of balloons, frictional scrapes and guitar body knocks, effortlessly varied combinations of shots against the skin and rim. The whole thing jerks and convulses, and the duo don’t so much avoid the prospect of “groove” as exist in absolute ignorance to it; motion arrives as an arrhythmic scrape and stumble instead of in bold, equidistant strides, with Birchall and Cheetham staggering and bumping into eachother the whole time.

But while the pair may appear to be locked into a sort of bendy, elastic conflict to begin with, gradually they reveal themselves to be working in immaculate musical parallel. Dynamic change is always impending, the two embark brilliantly on gradual arcs both up and down: descending into crazed mumbles of dissonance and quivering drum roll, and rising again into squawks of broken guitar strums and the more assertive flourishes of snare and ride. “Hold On To Your Lamp Post” is perhaps the best demonstration of the duo’s collaborative interplay, with a jumpy and staccato opening that accelerates into a furious gush of attack; both players gradually become more frantic in their execution, challenging eachother to push their instruments into rapid fire, yet both are impeccably synchronised in their careful – yet swift – descend back into the quiet.