CD review by Tony Smith
This blast from the past features Claes Pearce on violin and electric viola, Stephen Berry on acoustic guitar and Greg Sheehan on darabuka, percussion, cendava, toys, kitchen utensils, bowed electric bass and drum kit.
All tunes were written and arranged by Pearce and Berry except ‘I wanna be a everything’ and ‘Storm Coming’, for which Sheehan shares writing credits.
The album has just six tracks but is close to an hour in length.
The group acknowledges the desert wind opening the first track ‘Long Red Road’ as from the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory.
This track, nine and half minutes in duration, sounds like free form improvisation, although it is no doubt tightly scripted.
The voices here are in a kind of chant.
The sleeve notes list the lyrics.
Three tunes belong to a ‘Family Trilogy’.
These are ‘Beverly’, ‘A Child Dreams’ and ‘I wanna be a everything’.
While the soaring fiddle and the very active percussion are a feature of all these tracks, the trilogy is characterised by whistling sounds that evoke rainforest birds and the distant sound of children’s laughter.
‘I wanna be a everything’ is spoken by Ben and Lisa.
The emphasis on children is appropriate given that the album is concerned with the contemporary ‘planetary condition’ and the futures available to society.
The title track, of close to 20 minutes in length, could be about a weather event or the approaching storm could be a political and personal one.
There is influence from the sparse sounds of Japanese music here.
The piece begins with a drifting, ethereal fiddle backed by gentle arpeggios on guitar.
Then the tune becomes more frantic and percussion chips in the crackle of distant thunder.
Later, the music expresses something akin to violence before returning to a washed out calm.
The concluding track, ‘Think About It’, has a slightly Latin beat and the guitar leads here.
This introduction is a good way to finish an album of environmental sensibility.
When the fiddle takes up the melody, a greater urgency is expressed.
The piece ends in a neoclassical mode.
Coolangubra is one of the south east New South Wales areas contested by conservationists and loggers, or more particularly, cynical woodchippers.
When the government decided that remnant sections of forest were available for processing, woodchippers interpreted ‘remnant’ to mean not just any area which had already been logged but any entire area which was not being commercially exploited already.
This album is from a time when musicians were experimenting with ambient music.
It shows the influence of crossing genres.
At times the effect is trance like, at times it resembles a cool jazz.
One certainty is that it is demanding to play and highlights the skills of the members of this trio.
Sometimes such music can become grating on the ear, but not so in this case.
As ‘Long Red Road’ says: ‘stars come filling the night with stories’.
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