: pateras/baxter/brown

Synaesthesia SYN019

Gauticle is the second release for the Melbourne-based trio of Anthony Pateras (prepared piano), Sean Baxter (percussion) and David Brown (prepared guitar) recorded during their foray into Europe in 2004. Unlike their previous record Ataxia, this time they have opted for solely acoustic instrumentation. Describing their music as ‘exploratory acoustic’, the group combine their interest in improvisation and idiosyncratic techniques with an appreciation of free jazz, electronic noise and the classical avant-garde.

One thing this album gladly lacks is that feeling of tentativeness which can so often kill recordings of improvised music stone dead. Having played consistently since forming in 2002 the trio is focused, deliberate and capable of great subtlety. Thankfully, this is also not a series of illustrations or set pieces to show off their various preparations, but rather 5 pieces of intuitively produced music. By focusing on their sounding possibilities Pateras, Baxter and Brown relieve both the listener and themselves of the need to examine or explain the purpose of the preparations, or the techniques involved.

With their various preparations Pateras and Brown direct their instruments away from the sound of strings, melody and harmony, and instead focus on the timbral and percussive aspects of music making. Baxter’s kit tends as much towards metallic junk, plates and cymbals as to drums. In a loose sense Gauticle is an album of events dispersed across all 3 instruments. Although this is a record with much attention to space and resonance, it never becomes reductive or simply pointillist. Instead what is most interesting about this music is the way small percussivie events coalesce into streams and layers of sound moving at different speeds, each of these layers containing elements from all 3 players. This lends the music a multi-directional feel, giving it an ability to propel itself forward without sacrificing a sense of space or even place. There are backs and fronts and spaces to the side, between and underneath the sounds presented here, but not between the instrumentation. This is after all a group sound. It’s sound that flows—not just like liquid, but like a bucket full of miscellaneous rivets.

Improvised music is often characterised as not just a music of interaction, but of possibility. This possibility is not just about what the music can be in the present, but how it can continue to invent itself in the future. And in that sense, it needs to draw inspiration from the resources it employs. On the evidence of Gauticle, it would seem that beyond their instruments, the music of Pateras, Baxter and Brown is underpinned by an attention to resonance. Of course, resonance is a fundamental component of acoustic performance: vibrating air inside the body of a guitar, a drum skin, a struck cymbal, the piano‘s sounding board, the tone of a room. Unlike much European ‘chamber improv’, which seems predicated on a reductive notion of sound played into some metaphorical silence, this understanding of resonance allows something more generative to occur and for the music to be able to find its future: that if music like this is underpinned by resonance then sounds other than instrumental sounds are crucial. So on Guaticle, even when individual sound sources fall silent, by following the trailing away of its reverberations we hear the recurrence of the sounds of other things, quiet, but still persisting: everyday sounds, other reverberations, other people, other interactions, and in those sounds the possibility for more.

Peter Blamey

28 August 2007