Annandale Creative Arts Centre, August 9


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Holly Harrison. Photo: Peter Jovanov.

Marriages between sound and image remain fickle when, unlike in a movie, the music is intended as the primary focus. Sometimes the two bring each other to mutual fulfilment; more often they are at cross purposes. Still the most successful such marriage I’ve witnessed was Sex, Lynch and Video Games, when the audacious Canadian composer Nicole Lizee devised both music and images.

Sydney composer John Encarnacao’s Tinderbox, originally penned for Alana Valentine’s play of that name, was here being launched in recorded form by his trio Espadrille, with Brendan Smyly (saxophones, electronics) and Holly Harrison (drums). Because the work was conceived as incidental music it worked beautifully in dialogue with Ryszard Dabek’s projections. These were largely of dilapidated buildings and equipment: a rusted-out vision of reality that suited the music’s default setting of eerie sparseness, often with long notes and looping from Smyly’s soprano interlacing with controlled feedback or sparse chords from the guitar and textural drumming (including a chain on the floor-tom). During a section called Smoke and Mirrors came footage of a boy endlessly failing in a game of pin the tail on the donkey – a brilliant metaphor for a WestConnex planning meeting!

Encarnacao’s work contains an almost painterly preoccupation with form: balancing mass and space in arrestingly asymmetrical ways, with, refreshingly, the craft of musicianship wholly dedicated to serving the art.

The gifted Harrison returned with guitarist Joseph Tabua as half of Tabua-Harrison, the duo launching an album, Scout, and exclusively performing improvisations covering considerable territory in terms of mood, texture and rhythm. They, too, were accompanied by Dabek’s projections, but now the music seemed too dense to accommodate the images, resulting in sensory overload and a personal preference to listen with closed eyes.

The more brutal the music the better it was, and in this high-ceilinged ex-church the sounds ceased to have directional sources, rather raging around you like some out-of-control sonic bushfire, although on occasion the players seemed to lose touch with each other’s intent.