Joseph LIVINGSTONE (1962 -)
Physical Overtures: A Certain Era [7:37]; Hieronymus [6:04]; Poet’s Corner [3:32]; Group Thought [9:01]; Keep the Florists Busy [3:20]; The Hallelujah Door [2:42]; He Liked this Place [4:29]; Physical Overtures [3:48]; Karl [7:40]; New York is Rome [3:58]
Jo Quigley (solo violin)
rec. Autumn 2009, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, England, DDD
CENTAUR CRC3034 [52:16]
This is the second Centaur release from UK-based electronics composer and drummer, Joseph Livingstone. The opening track is a collaboration with violinist Jo Quigley, and the influence of an Irish classical sound is clearly in evidence. This is a slow-paced and expansive piece, which is tinged with nostalgia. The electronics track for the most part recreates instrumental sounds, through the use of samples. This is reasonably effective, but it doesn’t have the same sense of life in the sound as it would with live musicians. I’d love to hear an orchestra with this piece.
Hieronymus has a filmic feel, and a richly imaginative tapestry of sounds comes together in a quirky combination of rhythm and melody. Poet’s Corner has a jazz feel, and Livingstone’s drum-playing is an enjoyable feature. Group thought is a philosophical work, which deals with the topic of group affinities in humans. This is the most purely electronic work on the disc so far, with some interesting treatments of a recorded piano sound. There’s also a sense of disturbance, before the music calms to a series of repeated patterns and warm sounds. This reminded me a little of the sound-world of Gavin Bryars’ work, The Sinking of the Titanic.
Track 5, Keep the Florists Busy returns to a lively jazz feel, with the drums once again making a significant appearance. Livingstone clearly has impressive skills as a drummer. I feel this is one of the strongest tracks on the disc so far. The Hallelujah Door makes reference to the 9/11 attacks and considers the potential of a door ‘acting as a separator between life and death’. The subject-matter is dealt with well, and there is a sense of despair combined with a feeling of timelessness.
He Liked this place is a reflective description of a churchyard, which has a poignant feel. It is well considered in terms of its musical material. I particularly enjoyed the distorted organ sounds at the end. Physical Overtures, the title track of the disc, returns to a jazz feel. Karl has an oriental feel, with Eastern percussion instruments creating an exotic atmosphere. The wah-wah pipe organ is enjoyable, but I found little connection between that and the oriental percussion. The many moods of this piece felt like a montage rather than a unified piece. The final track of the disc is New York is Rome, taking its title from a quote by John Lennon. Using repeated patterns, this electronic piece has a dream-like quality which draws the disc to a gentle close.
The constant change between styles on this disc is in some ways refreshing in that the variety prevents the tracks feeling too similar. That said, it’s also a little disconcerting, as the sense of seriousness created through the style of He Liked this Place and the Hallelujah Door seems trivialized by the jazz interludes. I don’t get a clearly consistent sense of Livingstone’s style as a composer. I’d be interested to hear a disc of Livingstone’s drumming pieces, separately from a disc of his electronic compositions. This should open the door to achieving a greater consistency. Nevertheless, this is a composer with an interesting voice, and the tracks are constructed with a sense of imagination.

Carla Rees
A composer with an interesting voice and a sense of imagination.