Wednesday 5 August 2020

A short yet magical experience: Interstices from Brother Tree Sound

Interstices Peter Fribbins, Andrew McIntosh, Sam Cave, Jim Perkins; Brother Tree Sound; Bigo & Twigetti
Peter Fribbins, Andrew McIntosh, Sam Cave, Jim Perkins; Brother Tree Sound; Bigo & Twigetti

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 August 2020 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Music by four contemporary composers, woven imaginatively into a perfectly crafted whole

Brother Tree Sound is a contemporary classical group formed by Anna de Bruin, Thea Spiers, Peter Mallinson and Julia Graham, and whilst the four might form the classical string quartet line-up the group's aims are anything but traditional. Equally at home with a variety of genres from folk jams at the local pub to the soundworlds of extended contemporary techniques, Brother Tree Sound wants us to listen in new ways. To that end, Brother Tree Sound has released a new EP Interstices on Bigo & Twigetti which brings together four different pieces which have an element of commonality which seems to make a new whole. The disc features the second movement of Peter Fribbin's String Quartet No. 1 'I have the serpent brought', Andrew McIntosh's Tread Softly and Sam Cave's ...touchless as they sleepwalk, linked by a specially composed pair of new pieces, Interstices by Jim Perkins.

Peter Fribbins (born 1969) studied at the Royal Academy of Music, Royal Holloway and Nottingham University, including with Hans Werner Henze, and he has been described as 'As one of the group of English composers primarily striving to develop the compositional line pursued by Britten and Tippett'. His String Quartet No. 1 'I have the serpent brought' is inspired by John Donne's poem Twicknam Garden. Fribbins describes the second movement as 'A short Adagio ... much more diatonically tonal than the first movement, simpler, almost naïve, and conceived with luminous chords and transparent textures to form a striking contrast to the dark complexity of the first movement'. It is spare and intriguing, the space between the notes being of crucial importance and also the texture and timbres of the notes.

American composer Andrew McIntosh is also a violinist, playing contemporary and Baroque violin, studying at University of Nevada, Reno, CalArts, and the University of Southern California. tread softly is a work for string quartet written in 2016, and whilst you can hear the effects of American minimalism and traditional music in the piece, there is again an interest in the placing of notes and textures.

Sam Cave is a young British classical guitarist and composer, and his ...touchless as they sleepwalk was featured at the LSO Soundhub Showcase at LSO St Luke's in February this year including poet David Harsent reading one of his poems, from which the title comes [available on YouTube], though on this disc it is heard without the poetry reading. Again, a different sound world yet a feeling for the placement of notes and for the relations between the instruments and, dare I say it, the texture. This feeling of the texture of the sound (which some contemporary composers explore to the extent of abandoning pitch) seems to be of primary importance to the players. These are performances where I was conscious of the magical physicality of the sound.

In between these three pieces, the two Interstices by Jim Perkins. I loved these for their own sake, yet they blend beautifully into the concept as a whole, each piece mixing elements of production with liver performance to give them a very particular quality. As well as being a composer, Perkins is the founder of Bigo & Twigetti which describes itself as 'a London based record label mixing classical music,
electronica, sound design and a few other things'.

What I loved about this short disc, a little over 15 minutes of music, was the way that these disparate pieces seemed to hang together as a whole. This is a beautifully crafted and carefully thought-out disc, a short yet magical experience.

Peter Fribbins - String Quartet No. 1 'I have the serpent brought'
Jim Perkins - Interstice 1
Andrew McIntosh - tread softly
Jim Perkins - Interstice 2
Sam Cave - ... touchless as they sleepwalk
Brother Tree Sound (Anna de Bruin, Thea Spiers, Peter Mallinson, Julia Graham)
BIGO & TWIGETTI  1CD [15:34]
Available from Bandcamp.

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