Artist/s: Microfiche: Max Alduca (double bass), Nick Calligeros (trumpet), Holly Conner (drums and percussion), Sam Gill (alto saxophone), Novak Manojlovic (piano), Phillippa Murphy-Haste (clarinet and viola), Freya Schack-Arnott (cello - tracks 1, 2 & 5).
Label: Artist release
Reviewed by Joseph Cummins
“This is music filled with light.”
Microfiche is a collective from Sydney. Trumpet, alto sax, clarinet, viola, cello, piano, double bass, drums and percussion – on Everything and Other Infinities this ensemble is allusive. Often, we are listening to conversations between two or three of these voices. Silence, and a certain intimacy or delicacy, is always part of the dynamic here.
The nine tracks present a sustained exploration of texture and space. This album often has the feel of free improvisation, but this isn’t exactly the case. Spectre and The Arrow That Never Fell Back to Earth are labelled ‘group improvisations’, but the other seven pieces are attributed to a single name.
I also notice that the band state ‘All compositions have been workshopped and developed by Microfiche’. While this might be an honest acknowledgement of what can often happen when a band is preparing music for performance and recording, for me it shows that the ‘group’ in ‘group improvisation’ is emphasised in all of these pieces. (It would be fascinating to see how Microfiche ‘score’ or ‘notate’ (or not) this music.) Calligeros, Conner, Gill, Manojlovic and Murphy-Haste all contribute at least one composition each, but the landscapes mapped by Microfiche across the breadth of this album are focused and cohesive.
Album opener What Is Soft Is Also Strong is a gentle introduction to the set, Manojlivic’s cascading piano figures and Alduca’s double bass bowing invite the listener into the soundworld. On May as Well Be Infinity the trumpet threads together disparate interjections from the other players, and the piano occasionally offers a recurring motif. As the piece builds more energy is conjured – it is clear that the ensemble is intently listening to each other, sharing ideas. The power of a medium-sized ensemble like this is both in the addition and subjection of sonic power. I always find it so affecting when most of the band drops away to leave just two or three to explore the new-found fields of space, something that happens towards the end of this track.
I really like the way Microfiche set out this album, with shorter episodes followed by much longer pieces. It helps this listener to maintain energy, in a sense allowing one to refresh after some of the longer journeys. That said, there’s very little that isn’t resplendent and engaging on this album. The second group improv, The Arrow That Never Fell Back to Earth, features six minutes of strikingly beautiful high harmonics from Murphy-Haste’s viola (unless it was Alduca’s double bass?). This is the type of sound you can luxuriate in, and there are many such instances across the album. Overall, I found Everything and Other Infinities to be extremely pleasurable. This is music filled with light.
These sounds have been expertly captured by Richard Belkner, the man behind the controls of so much of the best music recorded in Sydney. As much as I enjoyed listening to Everything and Other Infinities on headphones, I also look forward to one day seeing this ensemble play. I think there’s huge live potential welling in this album and the players are clearly technically excellent and conceptually adventurous.