Twinkle³: Let's Make a Solar System

Twinkle³ may not yet be all that much of a known quantity but certainly its three members—Richard Scott, David Ross, and Clive Bell—will be familiar to experimental music listeners: Scott is a British composer with ties to the London Musician's Collective and STEIM; Ross is an associate of Bell, Evan Parker, and Andy Cox; and Bell himself has built a considerable reputation as a collaborator of Jah Wobble, Paul Schütze, and David Sylvian, among others. The three bring respective strengths and sounds to the recording, with Ross contributing analogue synthesizer, buchla lightning, and sampler while Bell plays shakuhachi and Ross Hawaiian tremoloa, panart hang, kantele, and drosscillator. What comes out the other end is an idiosyncratic and cross-cultural blend that suggests ties to jazz, gamelan, improv, and electronic musics.

A comparison is drawn to Mouse on Mars' Iahora Tahiti that isn't unfounded, as Twinkle³ evidences a kindred open-ended and child-like playfulness in its music too. That the band cites King Sunny Adé as an influence is also telling, as Twinkle³ pursues a similarly buoyant and nimble-footed style on the rhythm front. Scott's squealing and squiggling analogue synthesizers dart thither and yon as dubby bass lines etch out serpentine paths and Ross's Hawaiian tremoloa shifts the music to tropical locales. Bell's shakuhachi playing can't help but transport the music to a Far East Temple where gamelan percussion instruments keep time. Certain parts suggest the improvising spirit of a jazz artist such as Bill Frisell, and, while there are many lively and light-hearted moments, there are introspective and reflective passages too (one midway through side two is particularly affecting). From the evidence at hand, it would appear that the “solar system” the trio's aiming to create may not just reside in the skies above but underwater too, given the music's free-floating character and the glissandi-like flutter generated by the synthesizers. That Let's Make a Solar System proves to be an immediately accessible listen shouldn't be construed to mean the music's simple or unsophisticated. There's a plenitude of sounds in play at any given moment, and attending to the uncluttered interplay of the trio is one of the recording's major pleasures.

May 2009