: anthony pateras

Tzadik, 2004, 7095
http://www.tzadik.com/

With 4 CDs currently available relatively young New Music composer Anthony Pateras is on a roll. As well as his work with laptop scrambler Robin Fox (Coagulate, Synaesthesia, 2003), there is his superb collaboration with the onetime Lazy duo–Dave Brown (abused guitar) and Sean Baxter (distressed drums/percussion)–known in this new ensemble as Pateras/Baxter/Brown (Ataxia, Synaesthesia, 2003). Now following on from his first release of compositions (Malfunction Studies, Synaesthesia, 2001) is Mutant Theatre on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. Like Malfunction Studies, Mutant Theatre includes works for percussion and object ensemble, recorded by current and former students of the Victoria College of the Arts under the direction of the incomparable Peter Neville. Mutant Theatre also features a duet with Robin Fox as well as Fox’s electro contributions to a larger ensemble piece.

Pateras’ work is highly performative, featuring mundane sound sources such as vacuum cleaners, squeaky toys, Cage-like snippets of random transistor radio contributions, supermarket plastic bags, toy zap guns and a crushed “sacrificial violin.” The sonic contributions of these and other mundane elements adds both texture and an ambience of comic surprise to the proceedings. Therefore listening to recordings of Pateras’ compositions creates a sense that one is at some remove from the performed work. In Malfunction Studies, Pateras tried to address this by using mostly live takes, complete with audience reaction, and a rather flat acoustic space which gave this otherwise excellent CD a rather sonically deadened quality. Mutant Theatre lies at the opposite end of the sono-recording spectrum, with crisp, tightly miked instruments and a precise spatial separation of musical elements and sound sources. This provides a far more satisfying listening experience, though it would still be hard to identify the sound of such elements as a domino sculpture setting off mousetraps baited with ready-to-burst balloons if not for the liner notes.

Pateras’ compositions are also rather less arch here than in Malfunction Studies. The gestural punctums and repeated sonic crescendos of Malfunction Studies have coalesced into an easier to follow, more coherent exploration of texture with sudden strikes of atonal points occuring across discernable, underlying temporal or sonic structures. The selection of tracks on Mutant Theatre also gives a better sense of Pateras’ range and stylistic interests, covering both his wonderfully coordinated prepared piano closely feeding into self-arrested gashes of electronic sound programmed by Fox, as well as a marvelously jumping yet mellifluously flowing solo piano piece. There are also more ambitious percussion ensemble works, and complicated miniaturas played by percussion wizard Vanessa Tomlinson. If Malfunction Studies was the taster, then Mutant Theatre is the banquet payoff, a fantastic selection of hard and soft sounds, crashes and wafts, dispersed explosions and domineering sonic foci, accumulations and decays, chaos and Harry Partch-like coordinations; an endlessly surprising and satisfying New Music selection.

Jonathan Marshall

1 December 2005