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Fraser TRAINER (b. 1967)
Knots for solo violin and ensemble (2003)* [25:38]
Tangerine Dance (1997) [7:57]
Fraser TRAINER (b. 1967)
ID (2001) [16:14]
Lucky (2001-4) [15:09]
Love Action (1981) (arr. Trainer, 2003, for solo violin and ensemble)* [5:27]
Viktoria Mullova (violin)*
Between the Notes: Matthew Barley (cello and director); Paul Griffiths (guitar); Fraser Trainer (keyboards); Sam Walton (percussion); Peter Whyman (clarinet, saxophone)
rec. 7-8 February 2005 (Knots and Love Action) and 2-4 October 2004 (Tangerine Dance, ID and Lucky), The Music Room, Champs Hill, Pulborough, Sussex. DDD
BLACK BOX BBM1095 [70:28]



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.

Tangerine Dance 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.

Adam Binks




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