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sound/music CD reviews

 Da Contents H2

May 1 2013
Jon Rose

April 3 2013
zephyr quartet
a rain from the shadows

July 17 2012
the wired lab
wired open day 2009

May 22 2012
ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns

March 20 2012
new weird australia editions: thomas williams vs scissor lock, spartak
jewelz & nippon

October 25 2011
avantwhatever label collection
gulbenkoglu gorfinkel; ben byrne; alex white; ivan lysiak

May 24 2011
disintegration: mutation

May 10 2011
blip (jim denley, mike majkowksi)

listen to the weather

March 22 2011
difference engine

November 22 2010
artefacts of australian experimental music volume II 1974-1983

September 20 2010
clocked out
the wide alley

September 7 2010
clocked out
foreign objects

August 23 2010
matt chaumont

July 26 2010
sky needle
time hammer

May 10 2010
mike majkowski
ink on paper

November 6 2009
new weird australia vols 1 & 2

October 26 2009
clare cooper & chris abrahams
germ studies

July 17 2009
erdem helvacioglu
wounded breath

rice corpse
mrs rice

April 28 2009
james rushford

joel stern
objects, masks, props

January 22 2009
loren chasse
the footpath

mark cauvin

December 12 2007
the splinter orchestra

October 24 2007
artefacts of australian experimental music 1930-1973

August 28 2007
akathistos fragments


various artists produced by le tuan hung; dindy vaughan
on the wings of a butterfly: cross-cultural music by australian composers; up the creek

May 1 2006
ai yamamoto

camilla hannan
more songs about factories

found: quantity of sheep

philip brophy

rod cooper

December 1 2005
anthony pateras
mutant theatre

December 1 2005
charlie charlie & will guthrie
la respiration des saintes & building blocks

dj olive

new belief system

jodi rose & guest artists
singing bridges: vibrations/variations

lawrence english

lawrence english
ghost towns

michael j schumacher
room pieces

robin fox
backscatter dvd


the necks
mosquito/see through

tim o'dwyer
multiple repeat

guns, cars & guitars

warp: various artists
warp vision: the videos 1989-2004

zane trow
for those who hear actual voices


zephyr quartet

a rain from the shadows


This music CD is accompanied by a booklet of poems, the music and the poetry each carrying equal weight in the resulting artistic product. Developed collaboratively over some years, the music is a collection of compositions that were either written in response to certain poems or to which poets responded with poems. The compositions are by Zephyr members, and some of Australia’s most prominent poets are featured, as well as Mexican-American author Gary Soto ( The CD demonstrates how music and poetry can stimulate the creation of the other.

The CD opens with Zephyr violinist Belinda Gehlert’s serene “Ewens Ponds,” which was the inspiration behind Adelaide poet and writer Rob Walker’s poem “Reflecting.” Walker’s brief work suggests both senses of the word ‘reflect’—the mirror image and the thoughtful response. Beginning wistfully, the music develops a stepping rhythm based on repeated statements and is embellished in its voicing and sonority as it progresses. The music triggers a quietly reflective, as in thoughtful, state of mind, finally circling back to the opening theme.

The anthology also includes Walker’s poem “Taisho Pond and Mt Takedake, Japanese Alps,” describing a volcano reflected in a nearby pond whose surface is so still the reflection appears more real than the reality, a comment on human subjectivity. But the pond is silting up—beauty is transient.

The CD title, A Rain from the Shadows, is a line from Australia-based Iraqi journalist and teacher Yahia Al-Samawy’s beautiful poem “Four Loaves from the Heart’s Oven,” whose third stanza is thus:

I built in my imagination
A minaret
And a playground with swings
And I embroidered the deserts
With fountains that played in orange groves
And when I fell asleep at the window of my prayers
I saw my tent was an orchard
And I a cloud that poured down onto the wild wastes
A rain from the shadows

Al-Samawy’s collaboration with Zephyr elicited two compositions by Zephyr cellist Hilary Kleinig. Kleinig’s music, as with much of that on the CD, opens with a simple statement that builds in complexity through restatement, elaborate voicing and variations. Typically, Zephyr compositions are carefully measured, texturally lush and firmly tonal. Though accessible, they do not lack charm or appeal, the engaging tunes lingering in the mind. Zephyr has established its own unique and special genre of string quartet music.

Assembled through an interactive process rather than around a connecting theme, this diverse anthology comprises poetry of depth and power. Prize-winning poet and children’s author Gary Soto’s “The Space” inspired Kleinig’s work of the same name, which is slow, restrained and poignant. Prolific Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer was prompted to write “Because My Dreams” on hearing violinist Emily Tulloch’s “Skyroads” and Nicki Bloom wrote “Draggers” in response to Tulloch’s "Air,” which includes whistling. The steady rhythm of Belinda Gehlert’s “Dirt” is taken up in the ABC’s Poetica presenter Mike Ladd’s haunting evocation of a long distance road trip on the Plenty Highway in Central Australia, a “battered, holy ground” of immense cultural significance (Dirt, Mike Ladd). And Gehlert’s “Shearwaters,” inspired by another Rob Walker poem, evokes birds slowly swooping at sunset, momentarily hinting at Vaughan Williams’ “Lark Ascending.” The music that is inspired by the poems is not intended to be programmatic. The poetry and music complement each other, rather than trying to meld. Listener-readers can approach the material as they wish.

The recording is beautifully mixed and produced. I was at CD launch at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, one of Zephyr’s regular venues. Strings usually don’t sound as good amplified through a PA, especially on a hot night with the air-conditioning running, but the large audience was enchanted. Barbara Coddington’s design for the CD cover is itself an artwork, suggesting a well-worn book, painted over and full of personal history, adding another dimension to the CD’s concept.

Zephyr has always been concerned with accessibility to wider audiences and theirs typically range beyond the traditional classical music audience. Renowned for its exploratory collaborations, Zephyr often works with visual artists and writers as well as musicians and composers in all genres and this CD represents a significant artistic development for the ensemble.

Chris Reid

Excerpt from Yahia Al-Samawy’s “Four Loaves from the Heart’s Oven” reproduced with permission of Zephyr Quartet.


We have 3 copies of A Rain from the Shadows to give away courtesy of Zephyr Quartet.
Email [email protected] with your name, address and a rain from the shadows in the subject line.

© Chris Reid; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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