Sean Noonan and Alex Ward


How do you convert a duo into a trio, or sometimes a quartet? American Sean Noonan and the UK’s Alex Ward have found the solution. During the course of Noonward’s instant compositions, Ward switches between guitar and clarinet often on the same track, while Noonan adds grainy vocals to his drum and percussion work. Members of a generation where Rock is as much a shared language as Free Jazz, the duo emphasizes sonic connections rather than estrangement. They’ve been doing so for years. Ward has worked with players as different as John Bissett and Alexander Hawkins, while Noonan has been involved in everything from composed chamber music to Noise Rock

Most of the time Ward’s segues from one instrument to another is so swift that it’s like watching those films when one actor playing two characters has dialogues with himself. If he plays zippy reed flutters in a jocular fashion at the top of “Man No Longer Me”, for instance, Ward almost immediately switches to chugging guitar distortions, detours back to Pied Piper-like reed trills and ends up surging to string buzzes, Meanwhile Noonan’s cymbal and snare pitter patter follows decisively. Less frequently as on “Circle of Willis”, after Ward’s twanging guitar distortions introduce the track in counterpoint with understated drum pattering , he then pivots to clarinet peeps then returns to the guitar referencing first highly electric Metal textures and then folksy strums.

As a percussionist Noonan’s talents are most in evidence when he subtly switches among beats and tempos to complement Ward’s transformative timbres from either instrument. Whether it’s rugged drum rolls and clanks as the guitarist switches into Hendrix-mode on “Packed”; rebounds to match unvarying string strums on “The Stated Aim”, or crafting a program of cymbal echoes and drum-top tap dancing to sympathetically join Ward’s horizontal clarinet puffs on “Leaf Count” the combination appears ideal. Noonan’s rambling vocalizing of ProgRock-like profundities are an acquired taste however.

Overall though the expanded duo attains all it aims to achieve and for this Noonward can be admired.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Packed 2. Wrinkles of Time 3. The Stated Aim 4. White Light 5. Circle of Willis 6. Leaf Count 7. Concrete Sleeper 8. Man No Longer Me 9. Funnel Weaver

Personnel: Alex Ward (clarinet and guitar) and Sean Noonan (drums, percussion and vocals)