PERCY HOWARD/CHARLES HAYWARD/FRED FRITH/BILL LASWELL

MERIDIEM

  1/  The 7th                                    (Howard,Josef)                 6.33
  2/  Mingle                                     (Howard,Laswell,Hayward,Frith) 4.10
  3/  Interference                               (Howard,Laswell,Hayward,Frith) 3.55
  4/  Frozen                                     (Howard,Laswell,Hayward,Frith) 7.04
  5/  Iurodivii                                  (Howard)                       5.49
  6/  Votive Rhythm                              (Hayward,Laswell,Frith)        3.34
  7/  Lunarsa                                    (Howard)                       5.54
  8/  Anaesthesia                                (Howard,Laswell,Hayward,Frith) 4.58
  9/  Crucible                                   (Howard)                       11.30

          Recorded and mixed at Orange Music Sound Studios, West Orange, New
            Jersey, Jan 18 - 22, 1998
          Engineered and mixed with grace and immense skill by Oz Fritz
          Meridiem is generated and produced by Percy Howard III
          Album production managers: Francesca Pieraccini and Giampiero Bigazzi
          Mastered by Lorenzo Tommasini and Giampiero Bigazzi
Percy Howard: vocals; Fred Frith: guitar, radio, organ, violin; Bill Laswell: bass, fuzz bass; Charles Hayward: drums, percussion, cowbell, wurlitzer.

          1998 - Materiali Sonori (Italy), MASO CD 90098 (CD)


REVIEWS :

If I had to think of one word for this project it would have to be energetic. The energy ranges from rage to sublime beauty as heard on a track like Iurodivii. Percy Howard has a dark quality to his voice that immediately appeals to me. It's a blend of Kip Hanrahan meets Nina Simone . It ranges from demonic to an almost innocence.Backed by a band that fully believes in sonic assault on your aural senses, this ends up being one killer of an album. Possibly for this listener in the top ten for this year. Howard says of this project " It has come for me the axis on which teters infinite possibility; the abyss or heaven,rage or joy,love or lust,destruction or brotherhood"

In the seventies this might have even been called a concept album, along with its imagery of the mystical number seven, the mingling of blood, and occasional references to spiritual entities. Reminiscent of the works of Kip Hanrahan, this is music for tortured souls, combined with emotional and sensitive lyrics, soaring guitar work from Frith, as well as some of the most tumultuous drumming from Charles Hayward. Add Laswell's personal style of bass playing and you have yet another unique recording. The arrangements are pretty much eclectic ranging from pop to avant garde to funk. Can't help wondering where they get all this energy from. Percy Howard is the leader of the band nus, who have previously released material on the Belgian label sub rosa. The lyrics are reminiscent of some of the works of Williams Burroughs, thus my earlier references to tortured souls. What really keeps this album tight sounding is the guitar drum combination of Frith and Hayward. His massively awe inspiring drumming and vigor really dominate this recording. Frith is not someone's whose career I have followed but some of the guitar artistry on this is way way out. At times bordering on punk ethos, but too intelligent to head in this direction of senseless destruction and anger. It's far too polished a project for that.

A unique recording that will appear to a lot of people who are into contemporary music.

Hans Stoeve (courtesy of the Nadabrahma website)

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Being the collaboration of four extremely talented and reputable musicians, who, individually, walk quite separate musical paths, Meridiem is almost bound to become a classic. It is an album that leaves each artist enough room to display his unique style, while also emerging as a powerful unified work. And, whereas the solo efforts of some of these artists not necessarily appeal to me, their work in this context certainly does.

The project was conceived by -- and is centered around -- Percy Howard (perhaps better known as the front man of Nus), who delivers a tour-de-force vocal performance, ranging from exceedingly subtle passages that carry with them the sensation as of silken fabric caressing naked skin, to moments of true fury, as if the red-hot coals of hell itself were burning beneath his feet. And, indeed, as is evident in Howard's lyrics, the conflict between purity and desire, innocence and lust, faith and fall, is the source of his inspiration.

If any of the other three musicians on the CD comes close to rivaling the sheer power of Howard's vocals, it is Fred Frith. On every song Frith's inspired guitar work alternately accentuates and counters the emotions established by the vocals, thereby in effect further empowering Howard's words. Frith's performance also breaks with that of the other musicians by being decidedly more experimental. If it was not for Frith, Meridiem would be a reasonably conventional jazz and blues inspired work; with him, it becomes something a lot less tangible, and ultimately much more interesting to listen to.

The mercurial musical sensibility of Bill Laswell notwithstanding, he here assumes a rather subdued role. Remaining largely in the background, he provides a steady flow of tempered bass pulses that on many tracks serve as the glue that holds everything together. As such, Laswell plays his part to the tee, yet, one inadvertently misses his usual striking and powerful presence.

Charles Hayward stands for the percussion, and although his work is both extremely accomplished and energetic, the jazzy style of his drumming appears somewhat out of context at times, and seems more showy than the arrangements warrant. Again, this is strictly a personal bias, and many will probably find Hayward's drumming the spice that makes this musical meal perfect.

In the end it hardly matters who steals the spotlight, and who remains in the shadows. Meridiem is above all a great collaborative effort, and no matter how powerful each of the musicians' performances are individually, the final result is greater than the sum of these individual parts.

Michael C. Lund (courtesy of the Last Sigh website)

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The central figure behind Meridiem is Percy Howard, the poet, singer-songwriter, arranger and producer who leads the Californian group Ns, whose album All The Vertical Angels is available on Sub Rosa. For this project - released on Italy's Materiali Sonori - he has put together a fantastic Anglo-American group of improvising rock musicians: the mercurial Fred Frith (guitar, violin and organ); Bill Laswell (bass); and Charles Hayward (drums, percussion and organ). The rhythm tracks and ambient settings this trio creates for Howard's songs is among the best music I've heard any of them make of late. Laswell and Hayward are one tight rhythm section, reminding me often of Laswell's work early on with Material, and around their grooves Frith spins out some of the wildest psych guitar of his recent career. As for Howard, he's a unique singer, combining a deeply soulful/bluesy tone with the kind of strange intonation and phrasing that typifies Scott Walker or David Sylvian. Meridiem is an intriguing experiment that succeeds over and over.

Simon Hopkins (courtesy of the Motion website)