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Online e-dition 4 Sept, 2013

Ruptures & raptures

Gail Priest, New Music Network: Cycle ~440, Tangents

Tangents Tangents
photo Gail Priest
The New Music Network soiree in the Sound Lounge starts when Sam Gillies, the electronic half of Cycle ~440, issues from his laptop a dirty sonic remnant. It has just enough timbre intact to be recognisable as something that might emanate from the currently silent piano on the corner of the stage.

After a meditative while he’s joined by Kevin Penkin whose cleanly placed real-time piano notes are sampled by Gillies—he catches them, hanging on to their tails, extending, bending and shredding them. The piano notes begin to accumulate forming rippling figures chased by electronic spectres.

Cycle ~440 offers a complex approach to the electro-acoustic relationship. While electronic instruments so frequently deliver sustained drone and continuity, it’s the fluidity of the piano that hold this music together. Gillies is a master of restraint (or so it seems), delicately adding staticky beds and glitchy half-beats wrestled from the live sampled piano, or sharpening the jingle-jangle of tones. Penkin surfs the waves—both those emanating from his own playing in the moment and the delayed and dirtied version of himself. His harmonic predilections are sweet and melancholic, reminiscent of surging film scoring. (He cites a love of Japanese anime music in the program notes.)

Then Gillies lets rip—a blast of noisy static, out of nowhere, then gone. While there has been grit in the under-layers, this discharge of detritus is disturbing not just for its suddenness but its brevity. This occurs one or two times more within the set. It seems harder to contextualise these eruptions of noise within the otherwise very pretty frame, than if noise were to swallow the niceness whole for the remainder of the piece. I’m off-balance, both wanting more noise to create a new context, yet feeling resentful of its intrusion.

The set concludes with Gillies, back to his genteel self, spinning out a tiny, sweet harmonic drone suspending the final utterance of the once more silent piano. It’s been a beautiful ride, and while I’m not totally convinced by the ruptures, I’m interested in their power to perplex my structural expectations.

Headlining the evening is Tangents, a veritable supergroup for the exploratory music lover: Adrian Klumpes (Triosk) on piano and electronics; Peter Hollo (Four Play/Raven) on cello and electronics; Ollie Bown (Icarus) on computers; Shoeb Ahmad (guitar, vocals, computer) and Evan Dorrian (drums) both from Spartak. True to their name they play a meandering, tangential free jazz with enough harmonic confluences and electronic kinks to keep everyone happy.

As often happens with this style it starts minimally with Klumpes playing simple chords in mid and low registers, with just a whiff of delay and dirt. Dorrian finger-flicks his tom and issues spatters from his cymbals, while Hollo emits mournful ‘screaks’ from his cello. There’s a remarkably early peak as they all find each other, the rhythm section locking into tit-for-tat syncopation.

What’s particularly interesting about this group is how easily the alliances shift: a brief tonal coalition between Klumpes and Hollo creates satisfying warm harmonics; Bown and Ahmad’s electronic squelches intermingle to become a textural undertow; Klumpes and Dorrian come together with jazzy jibes and angular phrases that propel the action. These connections allow the music to develop contours often missing in this crescendo oriented form. This is a music of coming together and falling apart but with someone always ready on the ground to move things forward.

In contrast to their first section the second starts with everyone smashing it out in a free-jazz noise assault until Klumpes and Dorrian ground everyone again with a groove. Bown and Ahmad maintain a mild scream of noise and Dorrian provides a skittering coherence. Without noticing the shift they are playing faster and faster, reaching a well-earned final crescendo and succinct wind down to finish.

Tangents I, hellosQuares recordings Tangents I, hellosQuares recordings
This gig was also the digital soft-launch (the physical product still in transit at the time) of Tangents’ debut album on Ahmad’s own label hellosQuares. While it was recorded in 2010 when the group was just forming, the current style is well represented, comprising five tracks each quite different in tone and approach—both spacious and complexly layered. While there might be a propensity to compare this group to The Necks, Tangents present a restless searching rather than the sustained single mindedness of that trio, however they manage to avoid a sense of attention deficit disorder often prevalent in this kind of music. Both live and recorded, Tangents offer a music of consensual diversions that makes for pleasantly discursive listening.

New Music Network: Cycle ~440, Sam Gillies, Ken Penkin; Tangents, Ollie Bown, Peter Hollow, Shoeb Ahmad, Adrian Lim-Klumpes, Evan Dorrian; The Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre, 1 Aug;;

See RT116 giveaways for copies of the New Music Network Sampler.

RealTime issue #116 Aug-Sept 2013 pg. web

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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