Room 40 RM453
Reviewed by Tony Mitchell, March 1st, 2014
Chris Abrahams’ third solo recording on Brisbane-based Lawrence English’s Room 40 label is a radical departure from his previous piano-based releases on the label, Thrown and Play Scar, insofar as we are mid-way through the third of four tracks before we hear a piano with any clarity, and then it appears only briefly. Most of the album consists of electronic and percussive soundscapes, or perhaps noisescapes would be a more appropriate term, as there are a lot of metallic screechings, scrapings, and grindings, and the aforementioned third track, Strange Bright Fact, concludes with a field recording of screeching flying foxes from the Daintree Rainforest. The final track of four, and the shortest at 6 minutes 42 seconds, Stabilised Ruin, also introduces a very harsh-sounding piano, played discordantly and repetitively and mixed with glitches, on a bed of electronic whooshes and percussive rattles, until it fades out altogether.
Instruments listed as ingredients of the recording palette include piano, guitar, samples, percussion, Waldorf Q Plus, Yamaha DMX7, Moog Voyager, Vermona Mono Lancet, Kurzweil K2600, Hammond organ and Nord Sage. I’m not familiar with most of this equipment, but I can assume that a lot of it consists of various kinds of analogue keyboards, and I am not able to distinguish among the various different sound sources used. Abrahams has done solo performances on the DMX7, from which he conjures a rather harsh, sparking sound, and this album comes very much from the experimental free-form compositions he has done outside of the Necks.
The album begins softly and subduedly with the ten minutes plus of Leafer, which resolves into metallic scrapings, while track two, Bone and Teem, begins with metallic tinklings combined with a few subdued piano trills, and possibly a treated guitar, and forms an attractive series of drone-like motoric sound patterns over its twelve minutes or so, concluding with what sounds like a stuttering typewriter and an electric guitar. It’s all quite haunting, if you let yourself be drawn into it, and the minimalist aesthetic of the Necks is arguably still here in as much as the music relies on building a hypnotic mood and atmosphere which sounds quite industrial at times but is never unpleasant or disturbing. The album maintains a degree of fascination throughout, not least from attempting to identify some of its sound sources.