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The Path with the Heart


(CD from Tom Fryer

In the previous issue of Chroma, we had an article by Tom Fryer, describing his guitar-controlled computer music system. Those wanting to hear him take the system through its paces should consult this disc, recorded in 1996, when Tom was living in Amsterdam. In each of the 11 tracks, different aspects of the system are used, but there's an overall consistency of approach and style. Mostly, the playing is rapidly changing and intricate. The rapidly evolving stream-of-consciousness playing of free improvisers is here extended into the world of computer sound. The first track features guitar sounds triggering off washes of electronic tones, complex textures metamorphosing into suspended drones, in which subharmonic scales abound. The coda of this track is one the Futurists would have been proud of. For a lot of the tracks, the guitar is used mainly as a controller - it's the physicality of its playing that influences the music, not the sounds its strings make, but in some of the tracks, such as Stroking the Rubber Tulip, the balance between the guitar and electronics is just about equal. Flood My Calyx is a wild collage of stretched voice samples and other electronic sounds. It's very funny, but the textures also kept reminding me that it is perhaps the free improvisation tradition where the most complex music of today is happening, and not in the scores of various post-serial composers. Not all the pieces are fast and furious. One Smart Cookie and Your New Frog both are slower, more contemplative pieces which work with one (more harmonically based) texture for their durations. Cookie is quite mellow, but the Frog drone has an extremely high harmonic content, which makes it not restful at all, but quite gritty. Tom's live performances are a delight - he has a fine sense of performance and theatricality. Even without his visual presence though, his music is fun to listen to. And for those wanting to hear how he has developed his use of the system since 1996, Live on Planet Earth is a more recent CD (also available from Tom) which has four extended tracks of playing from 1998 & 1999 solo performances at Melbourne's Theatre of the Ordinary and Planet Cafe.

(this review was first published in Chroma)

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