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Water Settings - Australian music for percussion duo

Modern Dance (2002) [5.43]
Tangos Nuevos II (2002) [5.00]
A Room In The House (2004) [9.22]
Water Settings (2005) [20.09
Michael SMETANIN (b.1958)

Finger Funk (2004) [8.06]
Andrew FORD (b.1957)

The Crantock Gulls (2004) [7.07]
Peter SCULTHORPE (b.1929)

Djilile (1989) [6.12]
Match; Daryl Pratt and Alison Eddington (percussion)
rec. April-May 2005, Recital Room East, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
TALL POPPIES TP183 [62.40]
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Modern Directions in Australian Percussion
might be the earnest subtitle for this invigorating disc from the duo Match. One half of that duo, Daryl Pratt, bears a good proportion of the disc, and the Californian-born but long Sydney-based musician and composer contributes four recent pieces to the mix.

Modern Dance (2002) sports some angular bop licks, maybe a reminiscence of Pratt’s West Coast inheritance, and some fast runs from the percussionists that might put one in mind of, say, Bud Powell. To balance this we have some improvisation and some strong chordal comping that sets up a decisive jazz infusion of the heavily reflective and the lightly flecked treble run. The ingredients mix well. A Room In The House was written for a kind of prepared vibraphone – and there’s real verve in the projection of colour and sonority here. His Water Settings are the ones that give the disc its title. Light shines through prism in the first with plenty of chordal crash of water; a tough, butch setting. In the second ostinati reign and drumming tactics to evoke the Waves and there are plenty of dramatic rock drummer heroics in the final pages of the final tableau.

Tangos Nuevos II rides the bandoneon bandwagon - when is this milch cow going to die an honest death? - but once again Pratt nails his stylistic banners to the mast with as many jazz licks as Flamenco.

Michael Smetanin contributes Finger Funk something of a play on words as the composer instructs the players to use fingers and thumbs – no mallets - on the five-octave marimba for the whole eight minutes. The work went through many drafts and revisions and the result has dextrous colour, a wide range of dynamics – from barely audible to increasingly rhythmic – and it takes in bass guitar-like thwacks (the funk of the title?), and attractive tremolando effects.

Andrew Ford was born in Liverpool but has lived in Australia for over twenty years. His The Crantock Gulls, named after the small Cornish village, were prey to polymetre squawking seagulls according to Ford and if his music successfully conveys it – and I’ve not misunderstood it – it was also raining like crazy. Or maybe that was just the Hitchcockian gulls. The arresting tattoos are increasingly and uncomfortably fractious. There is some discrepancy over the year it was written. The notes say 2003 but in his own note Ford says it was begun in July 2004 and first performed in March 2005.

The senior composer here naturally is Sculthorpe whose oft-reworked 1989 Djilile makes an appearance in this arrangement for percussion. It has a gorgeous wash of sound and its melody is as irresistible as ever. A lovely envoi.

We owe most of the pieces here either to Pratt’s own compositions or to his commissions either singly or with his equally adept percussion partner Alison Eddington; Sculthorpe gave his approval to their arrangement as well. Percussion lovers will enjoy the subtle brush strokes here as they may the more Jackson Pollock moments. I’m more a Monet man than a Pollock but there’s no doubt that some controlled splatter is good for the soul.

Jonathan Woolf



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