Chris Abrahams: Thrown

Sydney-based composer Chris Abrahams (best known for his work as the pianist with the trio The Necks) creates transfixing galaxies of sound on Thrown, his fifth solo release (following the four piano albums Walk, Piano, Glow, and Streaming) and first for Australian label ROOM40. While piano plays a prominent role (played in the traditional keyboard manner and 'inside' too), Abrahams broadens Thrown's palette considerably by exploiting the sonic potential of a Forte Piano, Positive Organ, and DX7 during the recording's nine pieces.

The recording's distinctive sound declares itself at the outset when wheezing flute whistles uncannily mimic wolf howls in “Bellicose.” Of course there are no woodwinds on Thrown; the sound is generated by a pipe organ. Incredible too is the marriage of galloping percussive clatter and hypnotic glistenings that initiates “Can of Faces,” although the ebbing and flowing piano waves that appear in its second section also mesmerize. “Them Hitting” couples high-pitched pipe organ whistles and tugboat horns with percussive rolls that suggest the sound of a stick drawn across piano strings. The mood shifts from one piece to the next, with the reprised flute whistles in “Horsenel” followed by streaming washes of piano blur in “Remembrancer.”

While a strong sense of place is suggested by these pieces (one might liken it to the imagined music-making of a primitive aboriginal tribe), there's an equally strong desire to avoid constricting the music's associations to a single time and place; calling it 'primitive,' for instance, imposes a too-limiting and pejorative association upon a music that could just as easily be said to transcend time altogether. What most recommends Thrown is Abrahams' talent for comjuring unique worlds from a small number of instruments and, while the genres he draws upon—drone, world, ambient, minimalism—aren't new in themselves, the compositions he produces sound unique too. Referring to his music as sui generis might be slightly hyperbolic yet there's a definite sense in which Abrahams has created an insistently explorative and experimental music that sometimes sounds like nothing else.

September 2005