CHRIS ABRAHAMS: Play Scar (Room40)


Posted on Jul 13th 2010 01:19 am

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Chris Abrahams: Play Scar

Play Scar
Room40 2010
08 Tracks. 57secs41secs

Amazon UK: CD US: CD Boomkat: CD

Chris Abrahams is one third of acclaimed Australian improv outfit The Necks, with whom he has been recording and playing live for over two decades. As a solo performer, his work takes on a different path as he expands his sonic palette far beyond the piano and, in the space of four solo records and countless collaborations, has continuously pushed back the boundaries of his experimentations.

His latest album, Play Scar, his third appearance on Room40, is a mesmerising collection of granular electro-acoustic pieces caught in a haunting aural claire-obscure where nothing appears totally defined and sharp, instead leaving the mind to fill the gaps in between notes and establish the nature of the sounds used. Armed with piano, Hammond organ, Rhodes, church organ, guitar, keyboards and electronics, he proceeds to weave together extremely tight soundscapes from fragmented sounds sources, some left in a fairly recognisable state, others processed into much more alien forms. Abrahams’s music sits somewhat uncomfortably with conventions, his visionary approach instead driven by its own codes and rules. This is neither avant-garde jazz nor pure sonic experimentation, yet it is much more than the sum of these. The scope of his compositions vary greatly here, from pretty melodic pieces, at times disarming simple (The Same Time) at others much more complex and layered (There He Reclined, Running Out) to extremely abstract constructions (Fly Them, Twig Blown, Birds And Wasps), but there is throughout such an attention to details and a unity in the process that the whole record feels extremely consistent.

Play Scar opens with voluptuous waves of Hammond organ which continuously comes crashing over the first section of of There He Recolined, but, as Abrahams introduces brushes of guitar and sonic interferences, the tone slowly changes to become richer, and, as a broken piano line comes into focus, the piece is thrown once again into a much more ascetic form. This is also a process that informs part of Running Out, although here the set up is very different. Lost in layers of electric guitars and organ, minute particles of electronics gather into a progressively textured metallic structure, but later on, Abrahams calls upon musique concrète to assert a strong element of gravity to the piece. This is however again turned on its head in the last two and a half minutes of the track as he applies a sparse melody over a minimalist backdrop. Later on, he draws beautiful light jazz piano motifs on the opening sequence of Jellycrown, although the shortness of the notes played gives it a noticeably dry feel, but the second half of the track proves altogether more dissonant and angular as he forces a church organ into extreme tonal contortions. The closing Leiden appears by contrast beautifully pastoral and serene, even when slightly corrosive electronics rise to the surface for a moment.

At its most abstract, this album enters totally unfamiliar fields, which echo with statics, glitches, founds sounds, fractured electronics and shards of rhythmic structures, which often disappear as quickly and mysteriously as they appeared. Twig Blown is a particularly dense and challenging example of this, but Fly Them, in much more minimalist form, also pushes the notion of abstraction in Abrahams’s sonic space well beyond the realm of music, particularly highlighted in the crystal-like piano motifs which are found in the second half of the track. The epic Birds And Wasps takes on a very different challenge, Abrahams building what is, at first, an isolationist sound form, which evolves later into a much more austere drone, but as it slowly disintegrates into fragments of distorted interferences, it becomes a much more intricate, enigmatic and fragile edifice.

With Play Scars, Chris Abrahams has created a truly magnificent piece, with so many different facets that it is impossible to fully take it in in any one listen. This album requires a considerable level of attention to unveil even a fraction of its content, and never appears twice in the same light, so complex and rich is its range. Abrahams defies here conventions and challenges the mind, but he also, very cleverly, lets enough float to the surface to make Play Scars a thoroughly enjoyable, and ultimately extremely rewarding, record.


Amazon UK: CD US: CD Boomkat: CD

Filed in Albums | Tags: ,
Comments (5)

5 Responses to “CHRIS ABRAHAMS: Play Scar (Room40)”

  1. John Bon 23 Jul 2010 at 3:09 am

    Love this album, it has taken a few listens for it to sink in but when it does it will be there for a while, when I first heard it i thought ,milkman, you are being way to generous for 5/5 rating but now… its totally justified. What a complex but totally satisfying piece
    I am hoping to catch him play next weekend in Sydney as part of The Room 40 10 year show

  2. Pedja*****on 24 Jul 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Fantastic album!!!
    Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Chris Abrahams: Play Scar | undomondoon 23 Nov 2010 at 1:19 pm

    […] God there are more responsible who love to tackle albums like this, be it mapsadaisical, the milkman, or forest gospel. Go and read their reviews, but for a one liner from me, I think Chris Abrahams […]

  4. Chris Abrahams: Play Scar | undomondoon 23 Nov 2010 at 1:19 pm

    […] God there are more responsible who love to tackle albums like this, be it mapsadaisical, the milkman, or forest gospel. Go and read their reviews, but for a one liner from me, I think Chris Abrahams […]

  5. THE 2010 REVIEW | themilkfactoryon 19 Dec 2010 at 9:00 pm

    […] ABRAHAMS Play Scar […]