The Antripodean Collective: The Massacre of the Egos

An ambitious set of improvised music by five exceptional Australian musicians (trumpeter Scott Tinkler, violinist John Rodgers, double bassist Philip Rex, drummer Ken Edie, and pianist Paul Grabowsky), The Massacre of the Egos documents the first time the quintet as a whole has played together, though its individual members have performed in different configurations in the past. As Tinkler reports, The Antripodean Collective (actually the working name for an ever-changing group of improvising musicians who contribute to the Antripodean recording series) spent two days last September in the studio but the recorded material actually stems from the morning of day two, with the musicians using the first day to feel one another out and work towards a collective spirit. The recorded outcome is an engrossing, non-stop dialogue with the members following each others' leads and trading solos, while also given themselves over to the directions suggested by the music. With most long-form (two exceed eighteen minutes), the compositions offer ample room for exploration and each participant has moments in the spotlight. Malleable in spirit, the quintet often turns into a trio (the drums-trumpet-violin dialogue in “The Need to Have the Last Say”) or duo before re-instating the full-band format. Naturally, too, the pieces range in mood and tempo from funereal and ponderous to tempestuous and roller-coaster-like; it's not jazz in any swing-related sense of the word but it's like jazz in its boundary-pushing sensibility. Though it's tempting to single out one or two musicians, doing so would misrepresent the recording as all five are equally significant authors of the resultant sound; needless to say, each is more than up to the task at hand. “Conference of the Baboons” stands out as perhaps the most sonically arresting of the pieces, especially when a delicate web of string sounds becomes a backdrop for Tinkler's soloing, and when Grabowsky's minimal accents accompany Rodgers' spectral whistle. There's quality music-making throughout but The Massacre of the Egos is also overlong at eighty minutes and can prove to be an exhausting listen, especially when the music's ever-changing character demands one's total attention at every moment.

July 2008