D.Petts The Remote Viewers - Let The City Sleep - RV17

The Remote Viewers is the band of saxophonists David Petts and Adrian Northover and bassist John Edwards, this time supplemented by saxophonists Caroline Kraabel and Sue Lynch. John Edwards also takes care of the electronics, and you should definitely not underestimate that with this band, certainly not with the album they have made now, in times when distance is needed.

Normally David Petts comes up with a number of compositions, there are rehearsals and after a number of gigs the band starts recording. This time John Edwards went to work with the scores, arranged things differently, reworked and realized the pieces on virtual instruments, electronics and found sounds. For example, The Moviegoer was intended for four saxophones, marimba and piano, another song for saxophones, percussion, piano and bass, but now Edwards went completely loose, cut sections, changed tempo, rewritten parts and sounds were changed beyond recognition. Saxophone parts were played by vacuum cleaners and refrigerator sounds, a harp and car horns were used and eventually the musicians were also brought in. Well, catch up - Caroline's improvisation was recorded under a railway bridge, Adrian's in his secret stone bunker, Sue and John's in their respective living rooms, and David's in the Iklectik club.

And the result is astonishing but amazing, and David Petts claims that despite John Edwards' rigorous intervention, you can still hear very well what he wrote. See, I call that democratic and adventurous music. Music to make you very happy.


The artwork by Sue Lynch for the cover of Let The City Sleep (RV17) shows London irradiated and troubled by Covid-19. Some of the hardest hit, and as if dead by barbed wire, are musicians like those who have teamed up in the London Improvisers Orchestra for 22 years. In order to defy the adversity and to strengthen the cohesion, "We Stay Apart Because We Love Each Other. Love Is Stronger Than Greed." issued as a watchword. For "Sustaining the Music", the musicians condemned to social distancing delivered, well, of course, stop tones from home. Lynch came up with the concept for "Bubbles", Adrian Northover contributed, together with Philipp Wachsmann, "Midnight at Blackfriars" and "A Darkness Diary". Followed by "Chain Reactions" as a demonstration of creative chains of contagion, with Caroline Kraabel as the viral hotspot and driving force also for the virtual orchestrality in "Together Alone". THE REMOTE VIEWERS, to which Northover, from the newly objectively alienated art songs with Louise Petts to the sinister and paranoid thrillers of the noir phase, has been a member for as long as the LIO, created their current lullaby for London in a virtual way. From, as always, pieces composed by David Petts as well as separate files by Petts, Lynch, Kraabel and Northover on tenor, alto and soprano saxophones and by John Edwards on double bass. Except that this time the compositions were dismembered, twisted, manipulated by computer by Edwards and reshaped by sampling with sounds according to their own imagination, so that Petts' handwriting was disguised with noise and mixed up with car horns or player piano hammers. But in pseudo-saxophonic style and motor skills, she remains constructivistically present at the same time ('The Moviegoer'). Edwards mixes bell-playing poetry as a questionable guest with bubbly babbling and rumbling breakbeat ('The Guest'). He lets waves of noise cascade to fine tingling, cheap plastic melodies, chirping and twitching abbreviations, limping dingdong. The piano climaxed again to noisy vibra and xylophone. He dusts the sleeping city with fine pixels, murmured sounds and small glitches so that you can dance yourself to moody xylophones, tangled rubber and orchestral phantom strings. Vibe dabs with sustain, elegiac glass harmonica and theremin, electronic webs, animal sniffing remain a 'distant glimpse'. Lynch shreds that from the rusty sediment to the top step in the first of the five solo intermezzo with altissimo and honking sound jumps. Kraabel touts and moans under a bridge. Edwards knocks percussively and lets the bass body hum before he twangs the strings, saws tremolously and grinds the daxophone fluting or creaking and even pecks and strokes melodically. Northover contributes almost toneless breaths of air, popping, split, smoking sounds and circularly ventilated soprano waves. Petts ties in with Lynch with rough bumps and similar jumps. Until Edwards' last orchestral faults of strings, baritone saxophones, bells and growling bass mixed with fine noises, which increasingly trigger a cacophonous discomfort on 'Porch View'. Up to a foghorn call that one can only hope will be heard in time. [BA 108 rbd]


Recorded from June to August 2020 in different places during the pandemic on the basis of scores by David Petts and rearranged and reconfigured by John Edwards with virtual instruments, electronics and found sounds. Seven compositions alternate in the order of the 12 tracks of Let The City Sleep with five solos by each instrumentalist (Row 1 to 5): Sue Lynch on tenor sax, Caroline Kraabel on alto sax, John Edwards on double bass, Adrian Northover on sax soprano and David Petts on tenor sax. Each of his solos are recorded either in a "concrete" chamber, at the Iklectic, or under a railway passage. In what looks like sound assemblages, we hear fragments of keyboard, wind instruments, strings, conversations, deranged beats, aggregates of electronic sounds that follow one another with a beautiful dynamic or get lost in absurd curls. Subtle variations in timbre intersect with second-degree sonic gimmicks or rustles. Sue Lynch's tenor saxophone gets pinched, subtle, growling, pointed, dreamy, John Edwards' double bass curiously evokes his electronic assemblages and Caroline Kraabel's alto saxophone resonates the open space of the street. The City fell asleep due to teleworking, the virtual absence of tourists, and the musicians let her sleep. Without being able to come together to play and record together, musicians have no choice but to express themselves solo or to play together virtually via Zoom or direct Youtube. David Petts and John Edwards preferred to reconstruct the planned music virtually with electronic tools in a home studio and retain the acoustic expressiveness of each of the solo musicians. No pretense. What is quite astonishing is the faculty that these virtual versions have to embody the metrics, the quirky style and the character of the unclassifiable compositions of David Petts, the official composer of the group, compositions which give a unique aura to the Remote Viewers. , an unclassifiable group. Adrian Northover's remarkable circular breathing sequence on soprano, introducing a mysterious and spellbinding VR composition superbly performed with a haunted, atmospheric keyboard and ethereal electronic sounds. On the tenor sax, you immediately recognize the oblique style and manner of the composer, David Petts: every sound counts, every interval, every note length, everything has a meaning. The last composition, Porch View, is cleverly contrasted with successively reiterated and nested passages of string ensemble, horns, electronics, large organ vibrations, virtual wind tunnel - an intriguing work that will not surprise those who follow the Remote Viewers and will question others.
Publié par Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg


The Remote Viewers are a regular guest in the columns of Vital Weekly. Since the end of the nineties they consequently built on their distinct and characteristic oeuvre and many of their releases were discussed here. ’Let the city sleep’ is their latest statement. And although it is evident from an instant with whom we dealing here, this one sounds different compared with their earlier work. Normally David Petts writes most of the material. After rehearsals and some concerts they made their recording for the cd. Not however this time. Due to corona things went different. Instead Edwards took “the original scores as a starting point, rework them using computer and electronic based sounds and arrive at different musical conclusions.” So John Edwards, who I know as bassist, followed different procedures here, doing rigorous treatments on the written material by Petts. From what I understand the acoustical solo contributions by Caroline Kraabel (alto saxophone), Sue Lynch (tenor saxophone), Adrian Northover (soprano saxophone), David Petts (tenor saxophone) and John Edwards (double bass), were recorded later and are interspersed with the electronic sections. The double bass improvisation by Edwards, halfway the album, is dominated by deep sonorities from which a breakable melody arises near the end. Here the contrast with the heavily treated electronic constructions is most extreme. His electronic operations are without borders and very radical, using melodic elements combined with qualities of pure noise. This leads to engaging and even humorous sections like the opening part of ‘The Moviegoer’. Also the extreme exercise ‘Falling Beams’ convinces and show a side of Edwards’ musicianship I wasn’t aware of. (DM)


After two trio recordings in 2016 and 2017, the formation apparently returns to the quintet formula: four saxophones (David Petts, Caroline Kraabel, Sue Lynch, Adrian Northover) and
John Edwards (electronics and double bass). But to tell the truth, this is not a comeback. This is a particular experience, adapted to these particular times, to this coronaviral environment, a pretext for particular experiences. Of two kinds. First and quite classically, each member offers his solo piece. We will particularly distinguish that of Caroline Kraabel and her alto saxophone resonating under a railway tunnel, the effects of the double bass of John Edwards, the felt sound of the soprano of Adrian Northover continuously blowing in a bunker. In addition, and this is what gives this recording its true singularity, there is this collaboration, dedicated in seven propositions, between John Edwards, armed with his electronic resources, and David Petts. The latter concocted the scores and a particular line-up (marimba, piano, harp ... in addition to the basic instrumentation) for each of them, leaving his partner the freedom to offer a virtual interpretation - the digitalized sound of a vacuum cleaner that can replace the saxophone (s) - which then underwent various treatments. Effects of sirens, theremine, crystalline sounds, surge of noisy sounds, a mixture of melodic phrases and various disturbances give this recording an original, dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish aura, like a city in half-sleep, lost by Remote Viewers having dressed in their ghost clothes, and illustrated on the cover by Sue Lynch. Pierre DURR

The city that sleeps is the London of the lockdown. As many have done, the group led by David Petts (tenor sax), composer of the majority of the tracks together with John Edwards (electronics and double bass), had to arrange new ways of interaction through dispersion and distance. The atmospheres of the album, in the style of avant-garde jazz that mixes electronics and acoustics, composition and improvisation, interpret the moods we are going through, offering a musical sketch of our suspended and disconnected time. Paradigmatic, in this regard, is the sequence of the first three pieces, in which from the ambient noise broken by convulsive glimpses of sound articulation (The Moviegoer), we move on to the biting solo improvisation of Sue Lynch (tenor sax) in the homonymous Lynch and to the melody of simple and sinister marimba, embedded in sound effects and electronic drum bases characterized by an uncertain and interrupted gait, by The Guest. This, in fact, is the pattern. On the one hand we have pieces with altogether simple melodic lines (with piano effects and the aforementioned marimba, as well as the strings of Let The City Sleep to stand out on other timbres), but articulated and composite as to the work on sound and noise. , to the layered interweaving and electronic arrangement of scores originally for acoustic instruments; are doomed to a pandemic modernism (if we can indicate this, but obviously we cannot, a sort of musical genre influenced by an electronic and telematic mode of production favored by the constraints imposed by the covid), little inclined to offer cheap satisfactions and instead very inclined to arouse our curiosity. On the other hand, and alternating with these, we have the personal interventions of the soloists: after Sue Lynch also Caroline Kraabel, John Edwards, Adrian Northover and David Petts perform in succession respectively on the tenor sax, the double bass (very suggestive), the sax soprano and again on tenor sax, bringing us the presence of their sound. If I had any reservations for 'Notes Lost in a Field', the album of 2019, this work, certainly thanks to the uncertain climate in which we are floating, I do not mind at all.

Rating: 8

Alessandro Bertinetto

ay 23, 2021

The Remote Viewers
Let the City Sleep
Remote Viewers RV 17

Let the City Sleep is the newest disc from London’s The Remote Viewers (RV), an ensemble of fluctuating saxophones plus other instruments. This time it’s a saxophone quartet of Adrian Northover (soprano), Caroline Kraabel (alto) and David Petts and Sue Lynch (tenors) all of whom have extensive experience with The London Improvisers Orchestra and other UK bands. Expanding his usual role as bassist is John Edwards who uses computer programs and electronic synthesis to mulch and mutilates the reed sound sources, add field recording noise and alter and invert tempos and pitches to create novel and unusual synthesis.
Besides the electro-acoustic showcases, each RV members gets a track to him or herself with Petts, RV’s usual chief composer trilling split tone peeps down to low-pitched honks and vibrating scoops, and Northover’s variation of circular breathed buzzing from deep in the body tube most notable. Meanwhile on “File 3” Edwards’ spiccato twangs echo as the innards and wood resonate and creak alongside a rolling string sweep. With granular synthesis and other manipulations encompassing machine-switched on/off buzzes, backwards running tape flanges and undefined brittle scratches, sonic resemblances to marimba tremors, piano kinetics, paced percussion rap share space with reed tone deconstruction and shaking string intimations are also prominent. Sometimes, as on “Sight-Seeing the Ruins (Part 1)” and the title track, pre-recorded voices are heard. There’s a child’s recitation on the first, mated with piano tinkles; and on “Let the City Sleep”, mumbled vocal textures are contrasted with string frails and ring modulator-like gonging, creating the equivalent of a film noir soundtrack. The final “Porch View” exposes and overdubs many of these textural diversions so that the acoustic and electronic timbres are deflected to their logical conclusions. A response to the pandemic, the CD is not only a RV outlier, but fascinating on its own.
Ken Waxman


Another round, another record derived from the impossibility of doing things normally because of that damn virus. Last year, The Remote Viewers twisted their "score writing > rehearsal > recording" routine to offer a decidedly different program in both sonority and dynamics, but above all in terms of audience expectation. John Edwards took seven compositions by David Petts and fed them to a computer, attributing to the parts all sorts of timbres: electronic, synthetic, noisy or merely concrete. The ensuing tracks are interspersed with solitary interludes by each of the participants. With his double bass, Edwards is the lone non-saxophonist; in addition to Petts there are Sue Lynch, Caroline Kraabel and Adrian Northover. The solos were recorded in disparate settings: under a bridge, in living rooms, in a public venue or in a "secret stone bunker". While expressing the transient interiority of the contributors, they also symbolize the necessity to nurture creative strategies during an enforced seclusion.

Edwards' treatments have engendered chunks of material falling somewhere between the acousmaticism of labels like Empreintes Digitales and the fantasies of someone improvising and assembling lucidly insane snippets on a hi-tech workstation. The Remote Viewers have never winked at what might be palatable to the average ear, always preferring to walk across off-key bramble bushes. This particular move, and the peculiarly articulated music born from it, confirm the uniqueness of the ensemble's perspective. No room is left for the enjoyment of a phrase, or the quiet savoring of a given timbral coloration. The brain tries to fight against the hypervelocity of a chain of events, or gets illusory comfort from barely familiar environments turning out to be genuine traps. Some of the components can be deduced, but putting a finger on their meaning is a whole other story. Mysterious recesses and compelling contrapuntal junctions abound; every step must be careful. We're reminded of how useful staying home can be for productive experimentation detached from nostalgic schmaltz and "let's stick together in adversity" falsehoods.

Despite the hopes of the powers that be, sound-related bright ideas are not going to die anytime soon. Let The City Sleep is an indicative title: there's no need for forced socialization to make music that may not be as aesthetically agreeable as the "norm" requires, but certainly stimulates the surviving functioning neurons in those who use them for its analysis. Besides, of course, confirming the esteem for the people who brought the stuff to our attention.

Massimo Ricci