Jim Moginie’s Electric Guitar Orchestra

Camelot, October 27

Jim Mog res
Photo supplied.

Sound and colour, the arts’ great abstractions, are inextricably linked. Even the terminology overlaps, including tone, chromaticism, brightness, darkness and composition. As Jim Moginie (of Midnight Oil fame) told us in prefacing this album launch, Schoenberg wanted to be an artist and Kandinsky a musician. Countless musicians have painted, including Mendelssohn, Gershwin, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett and Reg Mombassa. A small number have been synesthetes, but the concept of synaesthesia underpins Moginie’s ambitious suite for five electric guitars, bass, percussion and two painters, The Colour Wheel.

Each piece attempted to conjure a colour, and meanwhile two artists, Chantal Mahoney and Stephen Coburn, added that colour or spectrum to a large canvas. They started painting with the suite’s first notes and, miraculously, completed their work exactly as the feedback died some two-and-a-half hours later, having created a pulsing, circular abstract.

The suite was too long, in that some musical ideas failed to support their own duration, and yes, some of the musical realisation of colour was oblique, at best. But the latter is an infinitely subjective area, and no two people blessed (or cursed) with synaesthesia may correlate the same colours and sounds.

Some pieces worked superbly. The transparent, heat-haze shimmering of White was a perfect evocation of the absence of colour. It was hard to imagine anything more intrinsically pastoral than Irish Green, and Orange with Flecks of Blue was suitably manic. While Purple was not especially redolent of that colour to these ears it was a particularly effective composition with its dramatic dynamic contrasts. Black was rendered by manipulating live, unplugged guitar leads to create suitably dark electronic and percussive effects, and the brightest music, appropriately, was Orange.

The other guitarists were Michael Trifunovic, Kent Steedman, Alex Young, and Tim Kevin, with bassist Matthew Steffen and percussionist Sam Moginie. The music was entirely scored, with imaginative use of space, sparsity, density and different “colours” from the five guitars. Almost inevitably, however, it grew into easily the loudest band I’ve heard in Camelot.