Black Box continue
their relentless pursuit for some of the best new music in this
release of première recordings from Between the Notes. Featuring
five recent works – of which keyboard player Fraser Trainer
is the composer, arranger or involved in the collaboration –
this innovative group, along with their guest violinist Viktoria
Mullova, present some persuasive reasons to listen to more of
what they have to offer. They draw from a large number of styles
and influences, the unusual combination of instruments allowing
them all to be heard, with an overall sense of blend.
The title work of
the disc, Knots, was born out of the book of the same
name by the psychiatrist, R. D. Laing, and in it Trainer
inventively transforms texts from the book into the music that
we hear, by way of a code and extensive use of speech rhythms.
The repetitive nature of the book is echoed in the music with
a minimalist approach to much of the work – particularly in
the catchy riffs that litter not only this work. In its three
movements Trainer seeks to portray three different aspects of
the Laing’s book; the first (Jack and Jill) focuses on
behaviour in relationships, the second (How do I feel about
my shoes?) is calmer with eventual mood swings, the third
(All in all) is a gradual build-up of extreme tension
leading to a final release. As is expected a vast array of emotions
are portrayed in what is a massively turbulent work, with a
massively improvised feel to the music, with an occasional glimmer
of both jazz and folk qualities.
Of the remaining
four works on this disc, Lucky is the only one on the
scale of Knots. Written mostly by Trainer and Matthew
Barley, is the perhaps the lightest and also the most sensual
work on this disc. Dominated by the opening guitar and keyboard
riffs, which recur in different formats, the main feature of
this work is the substantial section of improvisation for which
this group are known.
is the result of a creative collaboration with teenagers
in Lichfield – a frequent activity of this group. It represents
some of their views on the treatment of the young in society
and their sadness at not being able to express themselves how
they might like. The original staging of Tangerine Dance
depicted in the booklet notes, describes the teenagers struggle
to find their own way using the tangerine as a symbol. This
struggle is brought across effectively in the music, depicting
a restricted riff in the opening which develops slowly, with
the introduction of individual voices and with eventual chaos.
ID is exactly
that – the identities of each member of the band incorporated
into the music, again using a code to create rhythmic elements.
The titles of each of the movements (S.ra, P.why
and P.gri), refer to members of the band, and their instruments
feature noticeably in these movements. The arrangement
by Trainer of The Human League’s 1981 song Love Action
is a convincing and welcome addition to round off the disc.
The booklet notes
by Trainer and the group’s director Matthew Barley offer an
indispensable and succinct insight into the processes behind
each of these works. The confident and assured Mullova is an
ideal proponent of this music, while the band themselves are
an incredibly tight unit and complement each other with considerable
success. An intimate and clear recorded sound makes this disc
an eclectic triumph that is definitely worth a listen.