Reviewed by Joseph Cummins, May 1st, 2015
I love the way Melbourne-based improviser, multi-instrumentalist, instrument builder and installation artist Dale Gorfinkel lists all of the objects he uses to make sound on Switches & Hose. On the first track alone Gorfinkel uses a footpump, balloons, garden irrigation, taps, plastic containers and reeds. This is highly rhythmic music, hopping across shifting speeds and registers like a nervous plover. I can’t imagine what this sound-machine would have looked like, but I have seen Gorfinkel’s modified trumpet in action (which features on the fourth track). Seeing is believing: the tuberous appendages and mismatched body parts of trumpet’s bells and valves come together in a spinning (literally) tangle. The wheezing squeaks, gradually modulating gurgles and almost machinic screeches seems at odds with the monstrous tentacles of the instrument.
The site-specific nature of Gorfinkel’s work in installation and his extensive experience in outdoor improvisation is an important part of Switches & Hose: gong cage is ‘a kinetic sound sculpture in a bird cage’, recorded in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, I’m walking in a room, with two vibraphones was recorded at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, and Enoggera is a performance at Enoggera reservoir in Brisbane. On I’m walking in a room, Gorfinkel’s ability to produce a kind of glacial resonance from the vibraphone leads to the most meditative track on the album, with the delicate twittering of Ping-Pong balls and tiny motors taped to the bars of the vibraphone (judging from previous performances) working in counterpoint with the celestial idiophone zephyrs.
Gorfinkel is of the school of improviser that favours focused exploration of a soundworld, and while there are multiform textures to each of the four improvisations on this album, each track has its own sonic character, and this must in part come down to the space where the performance takes place. Coming to terms with the sonic characteristics of each new room (or environment) is a constant challenge for a performer, but Gorfinkel is clearly a master of adaptation and listening. Perhaps the highlight of the album is the Enoggera performance on modified trumpet, which is wreathed in a multitude of birdcalls that sit delightfully high in the mix. The dialogue that he performs with this terrestrial choir is a beautiful ending to a brief album showcasing the diverse talents of one of our most interesting sound makers.