Stephen Grew / Richard Scott / Paul Obermayer / Opry Robinson / Dave Ross

July 3, 2010

Essex Foam Party

psi 09.07

Consisting of a group of lapsed and still frequently backsliding British acoustic improvisers, this party tracks the members’ personal accommodation to altering the their instruments’ properties with electronics.

Mixed among the moist pulses and triggered cross textures that characterize much of the music are interludes that insert keyboard comping and runs from Stephen Grew and hollow thumps and percussive power from David Ross – reminding the listeners that his instrument is a drum oscillator. Meanwhile Richard Scott’s synthesizer, samplers and Buchla lightning plus Nick Grew’s processing and transduction explore the interface displayed through watery pulsations, stop-time slides and gong-like input-output among other sound extensions. Yet the refusal to completely abstract tones to un-segmented electronics is intensified on the three longest tracks when Orphy Robinson’s vibraphone licks and rebounds plus Paul Obermayer’s sampler-driven delays, flutters and video-game-like clanks and clicks join the four for live communal sound-making.

However the electronic-manipulation skills of the original Grutronic players are such that there’s little overt sonic divergence between “Ball Pool Blues” by the quartet and the sextet’s “Madness and Civilization”. Triggered signal-processed flutters and blurry clatters are as prominent as rubber band-like reverb and electric keyboard chording on the former. Meanwhile knob-twisting striations and processed ring modular-like pealing church bells combine with cross-sticking percussion on the later.

Overall the timbral mash up among acoustic, processed and sampled timbres intensifies individual instrumental sounds as it alters them. The results demarcate Grutronic’s sonic solutions as they define the group’s individual personality.

— Ken Waxman

— For MusicWorks Issue #107