In last year’s Advent Calendar i featured an untitled piece by Max de Wardener from a live performance at the Southbank Centre in March 2014. On the same occasion he presented a new version of Until my Blood is Pure, originally included on his 2002 EP Stops. That version, for organ (like all the tracks on Stops), was relatively short (under three minutes) and simple, featuring a cycling, burbling arpeggiated idea with occasional faint chords crescendoing behind. The music grows a little in the centre, the background chord now shining, before pulling back again, ending more or less as it began.
The live version is more ambitious, expanded to 6½ minutes and reconfigured for percussion and electronics. However, the fundamental behaviour of the main material has also been overhauled and bifurcated, not simply arpeggiating but – now played by vibraphone – involved in a more halting kind of progress, regularly pausing for varying forms of sustain and shimmer, some acoustic, others electronic (already it’s difficult to determine which is which). A simple rising pattern gets started, forming a secondary layer that gradually morphs from sounding percussive (akin to damped vibe notes) to more obviously electronic tones. This becomes the basis for a lively, playful duet, given some gentle gravitas around the midpoint with the introduction of a deep bassline. Coming out the other side of this, the piece returns to the twin layers, the background now sounding automated while the vibe line flows freely in front. However, though it’s hard to perceive at first, the arpeggios begin to slow down and over the next couple of minutes the two layers start to magically coalesce, eventually forming a single voice, singing the same descending phrase.
This version of Until my Blood is Pure was premièred by percussionist Joby Burgess with Max de Wardener on laptop.