Phil DADSON (b. 1946)
Sound Tracks - Solo improvisations
Gloop [0:12]
Obliquely [14:30]
Ecliptic [5:10]
Laced Cool [0:48]
Peel the Unseen [12:23]
Waipiro [0:46]
To a circular mirror [21:17]
Gloop 2 [0:32]
Airborne [1:37]
Phil Dadson (voice and instruments)
rec. 2004, re-mastered 2009: other dates and locations not given.
ATOLL ACD 104 [57:15]

Phil Dadson is probably not a name you will have come across outside New Zealand, though recordings of his work do pop up from time to time, such as on the Atoll label’s Fanfares for a New Millenium and other assorted discs. His is a name associated with the scratch orchestra movement and other intriguing conceptual work. You can find out more and see videos on Dadson’s website.

Sound Tracks brings us a fascinating collection of sounds from instruments built by and played by Dadson himself. These include the long-string zitherum, described as having a sound like a cross between a banjo and a sitar, song-stones, the numdrum, and the even more exotically named gloop-string-spring-drum. These are ostensibly percussion instruments but the wide variety of sonorities and colours that emerge from your speakers takes us to places unknown, sometimes creating sophisticated music from sources which will have an odd familiarity if not an association with concert performance.

Without going through each track individually, the result is a truly fascinating collection of sounds, from strange unsettling whoops, chiming bell-like noises, intense but deeply sonorous string ostinati and glissandi and any number of other remarkable effects. Some of the shorter pieces are a little like demonstrations of a particular instrument, but the longest, To a circular mirror, brings together an ensemble of sounds. These range from chattering stones, birdsong, and the chiming resonance of those special drum-like or strung instruments. As an exception to the instrumental pieces, Ecliptic takes overtone vocal sounds and other effects, running them through a looping pedal in the second half of the performance to create a strikingly effective dialogue.

There is somehow something deeply antipodean about this music, which retains a link with nature and the environment even though it could as easily have suggested machines of one kind or another. We can trace the ancestry of Dadson’s music back to inventive voices such as Harry Partch and John Cage, but Phil Dadson’s creative spirit is uniquely personal, and once you have entered this sound-world you are unlikely to forget it, and will find that your horizons have been broadened considerably.

The cover of this CD also has a tale to tell, as the arrow points to a star named after Phil Dadson by the late Lou Harrison, a US composer who also had an interest in making uniquely designed instruments. With only sketchy information on the foldout booklet this might have been a slightly better annotated release, but the recordings are very good and the music well worth exploring.

Dominy Clements
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