… Complex process of immersion in the musical language of the original recordings and their reframing as both tributes and duets.
Keith Tippett: piano, zither, voice, music boxes and percussion; Julie Tippetts: voice, zither, music boxes and percussion.
Julie’s voice and percussion recorded in June 2022 by Martin Archer at Discus Music Studio, Sheffield, and October 2022 by Patrick Phillips at Playpen Studio, Bristol.
Keith’s piano on tracks 2, 3, 4 & 8 was recorded by Rob Sötemann at various venues in April 1979, during Keith’s solo tour of The Netherlands; tracks 1 and 5 recorded by Marcin Wright at the Sir Geraint Evans Recital Room, Welsh College Of Music And Drama around 1995/96; tracks 6 & 7 were recorded by Alessandro Achille on 26th January 1991 at Ketty dõ club, Bologna.
With the loss of Keith Tippett in the autumn of 2020, the plans for a new version of the Couple in Spirit duets (revisiting the recording from some 40 years ago) had to be shelved.
But Julie decided to press ahead with the project through an ingenious melding of previously unreleased recordings of Keith’s piano with new recordings of her voice and percussion.
Of course, the title ‘couple in spirit’ captures this musical relationship and hints at the other interpretation of ‘in spirit’ through which a seance has the presence of the living merging with those who have passed over.
Through ‘Its rain and rain’ (track 3), the rawness of Julie’s grief is distilled into a celebration and a sense of hopefulness.
Keith’s piano playing very much has its own logic for when he played them. What is striking is how easily these recordings merge with Julie’s words and the ways in which her percussion gently emphasises aspects of the pieces.
There is a haunting cover of ‘Windmills of your mind’ in which Julie delivers a much slowed melody over chords taken from Keith’s improvisation in the late 70s. It is unlikely that Keith was playing or considering this song, but Julie adopts the melody to subtly merge with his chords.
The result is stunning and makes the listener appreciate how the other pieces (which draw on original lyrically and melodic ideas) have also arisen from the complex process of immersion in the musical language of the original recordings and their reframing as both tributes and duets.
As in so much of the music they played together, the boundaries between the music made by one and the other are blurred.
Reviewed by Chris Baber