SCAT and Stories to Tell
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 164 CD

Performance: *****

Sound: ****

Every composer should be gifted with such artful interpreters as Montrealer Tim Brady is with the Brisbane, Australia-based Topology. Of course in the 21st Century, the five-piece chamber ensemble’s interpretation is sympathetic, not only because Brady wrote or adapted four extended compositions specifically for them, or even because he has toured with the group. Due to modern technology, a couple of the tracks feature processed samples of Brady’s own guitar playing, around which the band creates its variations.

Most impressive is “Lightning Field – Darkness/Illumination”, where the sampled guitar’s metallic-sounding drones, crashes and clangs serve as an undulating substructure to the legato playing of Topology. Widely spaced percussive chording from pianist Kyle Davidson and affiliated, thick arco slices from double bassist Robert Davidson, allow for rhythmic explosions as they push the foreboding theme forward. Eventually though, an oboe-like obbligato from John Babagge’s soprano saxophone and tremolo bowing from violinist Christa Powell and violist Bernard Hoey take the edge off the agitato piece and brighten the finale.

Similarly unpredictable, the three-part “SCAT” climaxes with the performers chanting the title and introducing themselves, an onomatopoeic exercise that reveals its contours as the quintet’s instruments replicate similar sounds but without words. Earlier, the jazz-inflected exposition features spiccato fiddling and metronomic keyboard configuration that eventually contrapuntally pit strained and striated strings against jagged bass runs and pumping piano chords. A crescendo of sorts is reached in the middle section, as the slinky, viscous massed strings trill alongside colored air whispers from the alto saxophone. Slowly, the tones are then exposed as the introduction to the voices-and-instruments onomatopoeia.

Jagged or legato, contrapuntal or polyphonic, Topology follows ever twist and turn of Brady’s scores to create definitive interpretations.


—For OPUS Volume 31 No. 2