3 Head Mechanism – Full Auto Stop

3 head mechanismAt a time when much of the developed world was growing increasingly worried about Japan’s emerging economic strength, a consumer electronics company called Nakamichi Corp., Ltd. began to establish itself as a respected manufacturer of high-end tape machines.

Its introduction of the three-head cassette deck in the early 1970s was a radical step forward. Previously, decks combined the playback, recording and erase functions on one single tape head. Nakamichi dedicated one head to each, which meant higher quality recordings and the ability to hear a recording while it was in progress.

Full Auto Stop – a new half-hour-long improv jazz recording from Martin Clarke, Sebastian Sterkowicz and Otto Willberg – borrows liberally from that period in music tech. The four tracks are entitled “Counter Reset,” “Normal Bias,” “Memory Rew” and “pause.”

It’s all neatly fitting for a band that calls itself 3 Head Mechanism. The London trio features Clarke on saxophone, Sterkowicz on bass clarinet and Willberg on bass. Together they make intense, playful music worthy of the Nakamichi reference.

The lack of a percussionist is not immediately evident. That’s not because any of the instruments are played to sound like drums. It’s that much of the music is so intensely staccato that traditional percussion would be overkill.

The energy maintained throughout these four pieces is imposing. Even when the volume goes down, the performances are impassioned.

You might recognize Clarke from his work outside the improv jazz world. He studied music and composition at the Universities of Edinburgh and Birmingham respectively. He’s been featured internationally with the Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre. He’s also known for incorporating field recordings in his work.

Sterkowicz is featured as part of the SKRONK open-mic recordings series (you can find him on #13 and #17). He’s also performed with The London Improvisers Orchestra.

Willberg is just as active. You can find a list of his upcoming performances on his website.

Kevin Press

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