: zane trow

Room 40: 2004, RM405
www.room40.org

Zane Trow has had an extremely distinguished career in Australian music and the arts. However his latest CD, For Those Who Hear Actual Voices, sadly does not represent his finest hour. Trow's career dates back to the 1970s and listening to …Actual Voices, one cannot help but feel that his compositional methods have been frozen in time.

Although this release apparently had its origins in a live performance for which Trow sampled the chaotic speech of the likes of Antonin Artaud, Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys, there is no discernable sign of these arresting sonic and intellectual references within the CD itself. Instead Trow presents a collection of muted, largely harmonic tones and soft organ atmospheres in a fashion strongly reminiscent of the early ambient movement and artists such as Vangelis and Brian Eno. The latter's proposition of “wallpaper music”–of a series of sounds so gentle and wafting as to function purely as subconscious background listening–may well have been an important development in the history of abstract electronica, however it is hard to see the appeal of such dated motifs in the context of today's more dynamic sound worlds, especially following the horrendous appropriation and reworking of Eno's principles in malls, Starbucks and shopping centers around the world.

After some fairly banal meditative early tracks, Trow does break things up a bit with deeper, more bassy tones and works which, rather than simply hovering or sustaining, become interrupted in unpredictable ways. This is however not enough to seriously challenge the overall mood of meditative sonic filler otherwise produced here. For that small audience for whom New Age sound art and un-provocative ambient music remains a preferred genre, Trow's CD may well still have appeal.

Jonathan Marshall

1 December 2005