Paul Serralheiro, The Squid’s Ear, 7 mai 2008

Teaming up with an Australian new-music ensemble, Montréal electric guitarist-composer Tim Brady lays out some tightly written, impressively played music that is superbly rendered by the unusual quintet that is Topology (bass, violin, viola, piano and piano/sampler) with the addition, in one piece (Dark Matter), of percussion, clarinet and bassoon.

In 7 pieces written over the last 10 years that range from controlled, driving, rhythmic lines to airy atmospheric pieces, listeners are treated to shades of Terry Riley, as in the 3rd section of the tri-partite title composition, Scat, and in the opening keening violin, cascading piano arpeggios and double bass bottom that sustains the developing melody of (Dark Matter (Primal Pulse)). But Brady takes the music his own way, varying rhythmic cells and letting the melodies flower as they will rather than restricting them to a minimalist pinwheel development.

The atypical instrumentation makes for a kind of hybrid sound that is hard to categorize. It could be musique actuelle, could be jazz, could be contemporary classical. But is categorization really necessary when one gets caught up in such swirling pieces like the piano, samplers, violin, viola, double bass and soprano sax chiaroscuro impressionism of Lightning Field — Darkness / Illumination? In Dark Matter the composer has weighed his sounds carefully and the piece is a study in nuance and contrasting textures and tempi, like a chamber ensemble reduction of a Bruckner symphony. The language, although eclectic, echoes western art music, especially post-romantic and serialist styles in melodic contours and instrumental colors, as the clarinet and bassoon are added to the mix. Another stylist reference point that comes to mind is the crisply-articulated rhythms of Astor Piazzola.

In contrast to the chamber-music for the 21st century feel of most of the disc, we get, in the final cut, the more high-voltage abstract expressionism of a viola and tape piece titled (Struck Twice by Lightening, in which violist Bernard Hoey plays a possessed Paganini to Brady’s Star-trekking guitar-sampler track, an apt way to wind up this appealingly quirky set of music.

We get, in the final cut, the more high-voltage abstract expressionism of a viola and tape piece.