: clocked out


cover and photo Sharka Bosakova

Clocked Out is Vanessa Tomlinson and Erik Griswold, who mesh together beautifully in sound and rhythmic nuance. Tomlinson is a wonderful percussionist, drawing upon an enormous array of things to hit and ways to hit them, and Griswold is a master at preparing the piano and then playing what he has prepared. Foreign Objects is their latest CD. Twelve tracks and 46 minutes. Hand packaged in a cardboard sleeve with a little collage by Sharka Bosakova on the front, each is numbered as something-or-other out of 500.

There are a couple of tracks using the melodica, a theme instrument of Erik Griswold's that sounds like a cross between an asthmatic wheeze and the plastic saxophone that gets broken by the end of Xmas day. I'm not a big fan of the melodica but the tracks grow on me—the chordal pulse of Paniculata bringing back nostalgic childhood memories of warm days, layered curtains, a fly buzzing at the window sill.

But most of the tracks are percussive with melodic fragments. Hold Me Closer sounds like a melancholy twiddle on the piano by the last drunk at an office party, clock loudly ticking in the corner. The jerky a-sync rhythm of Stick This is a vague memory of progressive rock filtered through gamelan repetition, Chinese orchestra and Cageian piano. Toy Feldman brings out squidgy sounds and a music box scratching like a cockroach stuck behind the skirting. Like many of the tracks on the CD there is nostalgia and a certain sadness—an empty room, long held disappointment.

The longest track, at 10 minutes, is Lavendar Mist. It begins with tangled wooden rattling underneath a rapid rhythmic melody that sounds like heavily damped steel drum. Fragments come in and out—hang around for a while, check out the possibilities then go. It reminds me of watching uni-cellular organisms under the microscope as they are buffeted about into Brownian motion.

Throughout the CD, Clocked Out keeps both a sense of regular beat and its fracture, the rhythmic pulse following a wave of acceleration and collapse. There are strange overlays—Griswold might play something dark and rhythmic on piano whilst Tomlinson sounds like she is walking around in a Foley room tapping whatever feels right. This is a real strength of an excellent CD—the coherent layering of consistent and inconsistent attributes into a coherent soundfield that is both abstract and concrete. Walking in the world, leaves crunching underfoot. A stick breaks, loud and cutting through the sound of the music over the ear buds. Things you can guess, things you can't.

Greg Hooper

7 September 2010