Hide & Squeak
Drummer and percussionist, also - on this album, almost exclusively -
"man orchestra extraordinaire", Alan Purves presents on Hide &
Squeak (a transparent play on words) an-ever changing and quite vivacious sound
picture which hides a solid architecture and coherent intentions behind
multi-coloured, often funny, clothes.
the past decade I've had the chance to listen to Purves the
drummer-percussionist in a variety of contexts, and I've always appreciated his
appropriate contribution, also his great skills as a colourist.
album titled And The Cowgirls Kept On Dancing, which he co-led with (prepared)
piano player Albert van Veenendal under the moniker Two Al's, featured a quite
different - and for this writer, decidedly unexpected - side of Purves, playing
"percussion, squeaky toys, brim bram, little instruments".
& Squeak is in some ways the continuation and the full realization of
musical climates first explored on And The Cowgirls Kept On Dancing. And while
on the previous album some of the sound sources remained shrouded in mystery,
here listeners will often have to wonder what instrument(s) they're listening
to, with strange-sounding "keyboards", "basses" and
"double basses", even "guitars", that are absent in the
album's list of featured instruments but keep on playing side-by-side with more
recognizable marimbas, flutes, melodicas, kalimbas, vocals, and woodblocks.
not the sole point of interest, the timbral side of the music is one of the
main attractions here, the great instrumental variety being one of the
"meanings" of the tale told by Purves. Happy combinations of
opposites abound, with metallic, bright-sounding percussion coupled with deep
drums, with a "layered" dimension that'll keep listeners intrigued
well beyond their first listening sessions. There are many simple melodies,
with a decidedly "folk" and "ethnic" slant, all under an
aesthetic concept I'll call "serious fun".
is an album that can be comfortably listened to at medium-loud volume levels
thanks to a very musical dynamic mastering by Chris Weeda, and great recording
and mixing work by Davey Norket, which highlight the music at its best. There
is great use of echoes and reverbs, and a creative use of panning, which gives
the album a quasi-psychedelic aura while making it sound at times as quite
similar to the "whoosh" dimension of early electronic music.
album is not at all difficult to listen to, it just sounds... "highly
personal". Something Purves appears to be aware of, as it's made apparent
here and there in the album's liner notes - "(...) this (I want to call
it) music" - where Purves appears to anticipate one's skeptical reaction
to the music. Me, I'm sure that, given the chance, this album will easily find
is the kind of album where a full description can only be redundant and
repetitive, so I'll just give readers a hint.
There opens the album with strings and metals in glissando, mysterious voices,
a "keyboard" playing chords, percussion, then bass notes framing the
Ship starts with a bass figure that walks quite slow, then a melody played by
flutes which at times sounds like a slowed-down jig, then something sounding
like a glockenspiel playing chords, something sounding like vibes playing the
melody first played by flutes, there's a fine ending with very melodic-sounding
ate 9 has a lively tempo, chords, drums, a "folk" melody performed by
marimba and pennywhistle, then marimba performing in a different time
signature, fat drums, dog barks (?), the composition making great use of
rhythmic variations. There's a rhythmic interlocking of different melodies,
with what to me sounds like a "pygmy chant" as a closing motif.
A Place In Space features a melody for "space flute" performed in a
silent environment, with only the "whoosh" of space vehicles
traveling the stereo field. A delicate-sounding melody, and there's also a
passage for tympani. A very evocative moment.
Wackers has martial tempo, a bass riff, marimba, animal noises, the whole
sounding quite "tribal" and hypnotic.
The Bramble Tree starts with a hummed melody, metals acting as a counterpoint,
and harmonica performing a lazy, simple "folk" melody.
Down & Slowing Up starts with a bass figure acting as a pedal, percussion,
layered vocals, tempi that - as per the song's title - speed up and slow down,
an intermezzo for metals and bird noises that reminded me - I can't really say
why - of a "jungle" version of The Modern Jazz Quartet. Cut, almost
techno, then it's back to vociferous vocals. This is a song that successfully
sounds like a mash-up of different styles and cultures.
Eyes opens with metals, something that sounds like a shakuachi, woodblocks,
then a fine melody appearing out of the blue. A "splice" of
conga/snare drum played brushes. For this writer, one of the album's high
Happy has some pig noises in ¾ backed by accordion and a very
melancholic-sounding melody for glockenspiel sounding like coming from a
musical box that's one of the most beautiful moments on the album. After a
carillon solo it's the accordion again, followed by an aria for pig quartet.
Din is an episode that stays with you long after the album has ended. A
"double bass" figure with "slapback" echo, metals, then a
"dry" double bass playing "swing", cymbals, shaker, then a
"B" section with squeaks, the bass playing an ostinato, effects. The
compositions then alternates the "A" and "B" sections.
Another high point of the album.
Rock'n has a melody for flutes backed by percussion, a quite bizarre effect I
can't really finds the right words to describe, bird noises, melodic flute,
tiny tablas, then the composition orchestrates with great timbral inventiveness
the previous design.
Standing Still (at 694 km/s) is another high point. It starts with wood and
metal instruments playing single notes, a melodic phrase, chords, a
fresh-sounding melody, drums acting as counterpoint, then it goes from rubato
to strict tempo; at 3' 50" a long note appears, sounding as bagpipes with
backing by kalimba for a very poetic-sounding moment. Great!
Squeak Shuts Up has a very strict rhythmic design, a melodic air that sounds as
played on an ocarina, lotsa percussion.
& Squeak is a Babel of bird voices, the whole reminding me - again, I can't
tell you why - of an old jazz record, a 78rpm from the roaring 20s, featuring
an ensemble of clarinets and muted trumpets, with the solo part - originally
performed on a clarinet, or violin - performed by a bird. Quite bizarre!
© Beppe Colli 2017
| Dec. 10, 2017