03 February 2024

SoundOut 2024 / 1

Richard Johnson's SoundOut festival is back for its 15th incarnation.  It's presumably well known in these pages as an experimental and free jazz festival featuring Canberrans, Australians and a spattering of internationals.  And for that matter, sadly, just a spattering of audience.  This is not the most popular musical style: eclectic and authentic, yes, but popularity limited.  I won't get too all, but I do expect to get to one workshop and two or three concert sessions.  First up was Session 1 Friday evening.  I came in as Biomorph were performing.  This is the veritable core group of Richard Johnson and Rhys Butler playing tenor and alto saxes.  I heard flickering, moody, floating, whale calls, tonguing and horn staccatos and a closeness that comes with time playing together.  Then French internationals Animal Duo comprising Diemo Schwartz (electronics) and Guylaine Cosseron (vocals).  Sounds of cymbals, explosives, unexpected dynamics and more from synth and vocals that sounded of wind, grunts, animal noises and gutted with taped vocal chords.  Variously swelling, settling, floating, menacing.  Third up was a favourite for me, especially given I play bass.  Panghalina comprises an odd combination of bass plus two drummers, each playing another instrument, vocals or synth.   It comprised Helen Svoboda (bass, vocals), Bonnie Stewart (drums, vocals) and Maria Moles (drums, synth).  This sounded more ordered to my ears, but still mightily improvised.  They told me later of SoundOut being an opportunity return to improv roots given they are otherwise touring an album and playing those tunes which were originally productions of improv and remain improvisatory but with some structure.  I noted how "this has structure, thus some expectations amongst improv with huge intensity and high wordless vocals".  They later talked of parameters, being standard modes of expression (short note, long notes, staccato, etc) also a pictorial sense, as in long notes as landscape and short notes for Jackson Pollock.  Tech also took a role: Maria's synth but also TC Helicon over Helen's voice and a Boss RC505II to sample and loop Bonnie's voice, but more importantly, their voices found natural, improvised notes and merged through gentleness and harmonies.  Some structure over improv: how I like it.

Biomorph comprised Richard Johnson (tenor) and Rhys Butler (alto).  Animal Duo comprised Diemo Schwartz (electronics) and Guylaine Cosseron (vocals).  Panghalina comprised Helen Svoboda (bass, vocals), Bonnie Stewart (drums, vocals) and Maria Moles (drums, synth).

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