Austral YSIS

May 15, 2024

Earshift Music EAR 085

Hope for continued creativity from musical conceptualizers who divide their time between academic research, composing and improvisations comes from this creation by the Australian Austral YSIS band. Founded by expatriate UK keyboardist Riger Dean, who has gone from playing in Graham Collier’s band to president of the University of Canberra, Dualling’s 18 tracks blend acoustic playing and programmed electronics, projected by some of the Oz’s most accomplished stylists, trumpeter Phil Slater, saxophonist Sandy Evans and computer and multi-media shaper Greg White. While all have academic links, each has also played with bands such as the Australian Art Orchestra and the Catholics.

With White’s virtual drums/bass and Dean’s piano taking rhythmic and accompaniment roles, the resulting montages can resemble the sounds of an acoustic group or expresses the textures of a larger multiphonic ensemble. This is done as the quartet’s sounds are amplified with algorithms whose virtual timbres, editing and electronic emphasis create an array of intonation.

Programmed spatialization, pitch and tempo changes and the introduction of ring modulator-like tolling and watery, clanking and whistling oscillations make up the waxing and waning backdrop to many of the track. But tellingly, like a conventional Jazz session, most narratives are set up to feature, piano, trumpet or saxophone. Brass explorations mostly dominate the first part of the session and reed elaborations the second.

Experimenting with portamento extensions by “Distant Drums”, the fourth track, measured triplets brush up against water-dripping replications before the brass tones granulate into bird-like caws and descending peeps, with faux percussion backing. Similar face-offs are heard, with brassy shakes or half-valve breaths matched against virtual drum machine-like clumps. rattles and cymbal shuffles or Dean’s acoustic piano’s pedal-point pressure or elevated  dynamic runs.

Evans’ features sometime situate her soprano and tenor saxophone output within existing but processed natural sound as on “Macedonian Air (Aired Thoughts 2)”. However her supple soprano sax twitters, sighs and upwards rustles also emphasize the inner metallic qualities of the horn. Interaction with virtual strings, bass and drum approximations or ghostly synthesized timbres are part of the saxophone process on tunes like “AutoAltercation 1 (Serial Dualling 2)” and “Saxophone Flows” While the second is a relaxed exposition that ascends to whistles and breathless flutters, the first features a duet between both her saxophones with mellow tenor tones contrasting with soprano peeps, both fluctuating on top of synthesized burbles.

Those tracks dominated by voltage crackles and crumbling and static whizzes are additionally balanced by those which demonstrate Dean’s skill in exacting a panoply of textures from key chiming to wood and soundboard vibrations from his piano. “AutoAltercation 2 (Serial Dualling 3)” even features a keyboard duet with himself.

Visionary and voluminous, Dualling scopes out new variations of electro-acoustic improvising as well as the sometime benefits of academic/real life coordination.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Trumpet Pelog 2. Alone in Space (Aired Thoughts 1) 3. Dualling 1 4. Distant Drums 5. Fields 6. Strafe (Dualling 2) -7. Stabs 1 8. Assembly 9. Macedonian Air (Aired Thoughts 2) 10. Raise (Dualling 3) 11. Unbalancing (Serial Dualling 1) 12. AutoAltercation 1 (Serial Dualling 2) 13. Riding 14. Saxophone Flows 15. Rhytharmonies 16. Indian Betsy 17. AutoAltercation 2 (Serial Dualling 3) 18. Piano Steam Joins

Personnel: Phil Slater (trumpet); Sandy Evans (tenor and soprano saxophones); Roger Dean (piano, computer, pre-composed electroacoustic sounds); Greg White (computer, virtual drums/bass, virtual strings) and Hazel Smith (voice)