Posts Tagged ‘Composition’

ROOM40 – RM476

Christopher Nosnibor

We seem to have been inundated with piano-based works here at Aural Aggravation recently. If that’s not remarkable in itself then the diversity of the music they contain is. David Shea’s Piano 1 is by far the most conventional-sounding of them. This is by no means a criticism: much as I spend the majority of my time immersing myself in and hugely appreciating experimental works, spanning the most abrasive noise to the murkiest of ambience and anywhere in between – even near-silence has its place, to appreciate any one thing, exposure to its polar opposite is invaluable. Piano 1 isn’t strictly a polarity against works like Antony Burr and Anthony Pateras’ The Long Exhale, Angelina Yershova’s Piano’s Abyss or James Batty’s Sanctuary, it is a very different kind of record in that it focuses largely on musicality over experimentation. It would also be erroneous to suggest musicality and experimentation are at offs with one another: even the most extreme avant-garde anti-music is born out of music, and often works best when its creation involves a purposeful breaking of the rules rather than an ignorance of them.

In the notes which accompany the album, Shea explains the significance of the piano throughout his life, that he grew up exposed to classical and jazz piano works, as well as the greats of the avant-garde, and, while his career has been centred around music, his primary focus has been on composition rather than performance, admitting that his compositional works often exceeds his ow technical abilities. As such, Piano I documents Shea’s repositioning himself in the role of musician, testing and pushing beyond his limitations. ‘I spent a year unravelling my past approach to composing for piano and explored my own phyucal technique,’ he writes. ‘No preparations, no samples, no extended electronics or reliance on overdubs or reliance on my past sample acoustic techniques. The result of this year of practice, writing, listening, exploring and recording is this CD’. As such, it’s a very honest and sonically unpretentious album which finds Shea exploring his relationship with the instrument in terms of composition and musicianship, and an album on which the piano sounds like a piano.

The first track, ‘Mirror’ is a sedate, rolling piece which is as much about the way the notes sustain and the spaces between notes as the notes themselves as he skips between the octaves unexpectedly, Shea exploiting the full span of the keyboard. The imaginatively-titled ‘Suite Pts 1-8’ manifests as a sequence of elegant, delicate pieces, the majority of which are short and fragmentary, yet feel like more than mere sketches. ‘Magnet’s represents the least overtly ‘pianific’ piece on the album, with a sighing, quavering drone.

The album’s second ‘set’ of compositions, the four-part ‘Tribute to Mancini’ (Henry, not Roberto) reflect a different style, also demonstrates not only the versatility of the piano even when played conventionally, but also Shea’s awareness of and ability to utilise the instrument to convey different mood.

At times, the lilting flow of the playing halts abruptly, and the sense of real-time playing, of rehearsal, is conveyed, and this gives the album a strong sense of intimacy. While Shea explains at length that he does not consider himself to be ‘a pianist’, the performances here demonstrate he’s an adept musician.




Immedata – IMM006 – 4th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Instruments that sound like instruments!’ boasts the sticker on the cellophane in which North of North is shrinkwrapped. It’s a good selling point, and I’m not being sarcastic. It’s not a matter of selling tradition, but what could reasonably be described as the album’s manifesto: ‘this is no random grimprov get together or free jazz blowout, this is a serious engagement with compositional parameters combined with instrumental virtuosity from a working band’, announced the press release. It’s a bold statement which is likely to rankle with a fair few in avant-jazz circles, but fuck ‘em. Isn’t that what avant-gardism is all about?

As it happens, there’s a lot of fucking going on with this release. The interior of the lurid pink gatefold cover contains the following uncredited quotation, impressed in silver text:

It doesn’t come from fucking somewhere else,

It comes from your fucking brain.

Your brain tells you what to do, and you fucking do it.

If your brains are fucked, then the music will be fucked.

And the music is a little fucked, but in a good way. In the way that this album is all about what the title states: ‘The Moment In and Of Itself’. It’s immediate. It’s real. The moment is the only thing that matters. The moment is history in the making. It’ a moment in time, captured, distilling the coming together of three musicians to create something – to create music. Nothing more, nothing less.

Featuring the talents of Anthony Pateras (piano), Scott Tinkler (trumpet) and Erkki Veltheim (violin), the album’s five tracks represent spirited, free-flowing improvisation – a subject they discuss at length in the three-way conversation (it’s not strictly an interview) in the 16-page booklet which accompanies the album. It’s all in the moment. It’s not pre-planned improvisation, guided, ordered, conducted. Naturally, just because the instruments sound like instruments doesn’t mean that this is a perfectly accessible work. At times in perfect accord and at others creating tempestuous discord, there are jazz elements in the compositions, such as they are. And of course, the range of sounds three instruments can name, individually and in combination, while still sounding like instruments, is immense, and at times brain-bending.

There’s certainly a strong element of playfulness which runs throughout the project as a whole. What lies North of North? It’s like the question posted in Spinal Tap when discussing the cover to their Black Album. And just as there’s none more black so there is none more North than North, unless you’re going to leave the planet completely. Which could well be the aim of these fellows, as they explore what it means to participate in ‘real-time composition’. I’m also reminded of the Bukowski book, South Of No North. Which is presumably nowhere or also off the planet. Whatever: location is a state of mind.

Leaping between brooding drama and fleeting, skittering leaps and transitioning from moody to frantically busy, with scratches and scribbly scrapes, fast fingerwork and mindboggling intuition are what make this album happen. And in the moment, they eke out extended crescendos and embark on wild detours and impromptu romps in myriad directions. It’s challenging, at times manic and eye-popping. But this is the real deal. It happened. And this album is a document of a moment, as it happened.

North of North