Review: Colin Webster + Mark Holub – The Claw

Webster has his instrument in a stranglehold during the first track of The Claw. Tone is strained out between jets of spit and residue, rasping into all kinds of accidental overtones and distortions and restricted to the most ghastly of wheezing breaths. Meanwhile, Holub’s percussion is lively and taunting; it rolls and dances between snares and toms, sizing up the woodwind growls and building up the necessary momentum to strike with full force. On “Ut”, both instruments are unleashed: the saxophone comes flailing out to meet the drums’ stuttering attack for a fleeting minute of all-out brawl, and the two tumble into eachother in some sort of euphoric, destructive celebration of their liberation.

From here on in, the album moves between some snakecharmer-esque slinking in amongst a gently thumping 4/4, moments of near silence ripped open by ugly woodwind slurps and ride cymbal ticks, and occasionally ducks back into those moments of agonising and noisy suppression. The duo’s conversation feels slightly more tenuous when diluted into steady, digestible grooves – with the spontaneous dynamic lost to the rhythmic stasis that leaves the saxophone whirling aimlessly over the top – and the album’s strongest moments occur when all elements are left in flux, at which points it’s extremely difficult to tell who instigates the transformations in sound and mood. Both players are hyper-reactive to even the slightest tweaks in emphasis and temperament, and observing the tiny intricacies of the collaborative back and forth is often a delight.