Richard Pinnell - The Watchful Ear:
The CD in question then is one I've listened to on and off since being given it in Ireland a few weeks back, the second release on Ivan Palacky's Uceroz label, this one a disc named Looking for a looking for by the duo of Palacky (playing his amplified knitting machine) alongside Peter Graham, of whom I was not previously familiar, who plays Piano on the first thirty four minute track and harmonium on the second, which lasts a fraction over twenty. Together, the group play under the name Palagrachio. Before mentioning the music, I should add that this release comes in similar "interactive" packaging to the first Uceroz disc I wrote about here a little while back. I'll say no more so as not to spoil the surprise too much, but suffice to say the image shown above portrays my own personal copy this time around.
The music here then is actually rather good, and particularly quite different to what I might have expected before playing the CD. It is still of course free improvisation, there are no shocks there, but there is a kind of linear subtlety to the construction of the two pieces that I rather like. The first track, titled Looking for... begins with Graham confidently playing two handed clusters of bubbling, massed together soft piano notes, allowing them to merge into one slightly queasy, slightly soporific cloud of sound. Underneath this Palacky lets a gentle, gradually evolving but not really ever intensifying smatter of popping, fluttering electro-acoustic abstraction murmur away. As the Bohor-esque stream of flickering greyness continues so Graham becomes more animated, really bouncing around the keys to paint bright, expressive strokes of semi-melodic colour. As he does this, Palacky's contributions hold steady, until around ten minutes in, where the piano starts to fade until the gentle undercurrent remains on its own. The interesting thing for me here is how this was done in real time (assuming it did happen in real time). The piano contributions fade away as if someone was slowly turning down the volume dial, I don't know that anyone could reduce the volume in such a way playing "live". So was Graham's contribution faded out at the editing and mixing stage? However it was done, the slow stripping back of the piano to reveal the chirruping patter of Palacky's sound works very nicely, as if a solo piano work faded to a close to reveal a gentle stream of rainfall heard through the window.
The track then falls into near silence, with Palacky rescuing things a few minutes later with a stream of tiny amplified sounds, and Graham following a little later with some small inside-piano scrapes and knocks, and a few distant, very gently played stray notes. There is a great sense of restraint to this music. It feels as if either musician could really let rip, but neither does, rather they maintain their chosen courses and the music unfolds naturally as the two sets of sounds combine. The closing moments of the track see Graham sprinkling a few expressionistic sets of high register notes as Palacky allows just a soft hiss of white noise to accompany them. Very nicely done, subtle, nicely restrained playing all round.
The second piece, ...a looking for sees the musicians break loose slightly more, albeit it with the strong sense of timing and a slow evolution of the sound remaining in place. For this piece, Graham lets a stream of high pitched harmonium whines stand out, forcing Palacky to raise the volume and content of his accompanying textures, this time quite rhythmic in their nature. Gradually though the details in Palacky's amplified rubs and scrapes start to bounce firmly off of the piercing tones and a quite dramatic, written in the moment tension forms in the music. Here a real tension begins to emerge, though again Palacky does not alter his course that much, rather allowing the tension in the music evolve as a response to the purring, whirring additions. There is a particularly loud, freely contested section of grainy drones and chesty harmonium tones that appears halfway through the second piece that sounds genuinely quite harrowing. Despite the increased sense of energy here though the two tracks are generally slow and gradually considered works that reward the listener's attention to detail. There are no crescendoes as such, little controversy, just a couple of musicians creating music very much in the moment, but with a long term overview of their output musically. Good stuff then, with the degree of patience and studied concentration involved here particularly impressive.