Phil Treloar album




narra resThe final volume in Phil Treloar’s mammoth retrospective of a significant part of his life’s work, Of Other Narratives – Tracings in the Ground of Collective Autonomy, is almost like a snapshot of the series as a whole. The music occurs upon a wide-open field where the acoustic and the electronic, the improvised and the notated, the live and the studio intermingle, as do a breadth of instrumentation and players.

The title track (recorded live in 1990) is a notable example of the dialogue between acoustic and electronic, with Treloar’s percussion being treated by David Tolley, so the sparse sounds flare suddenly, iridescently, against the black backdrop of silence. It is essentially disquieting music with juxtaposed flashes of humour, the upshot being that the listener is kept in a constant state of suspended surprise.

Percussion Music One was Treloar’s first ever fully-notated composition, here performed live by Peter Jacob in 1986. You’d swear it was being performed by two or even three percussionists, as parts for wood, metal and skin overlay each other in multiple polyrhythms. If that sounds like an exercise in density, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact Treloar creates an engrossing piece in which the air surrounding each note is as crucial as the note itself, the rests creating halos around each sound, if you like, thereby focusing the listener’s attention on textural contrast and evolution, even while a melodic narrative is unfolding. An intriguing aside is the extent to which this first notated piece sets in train a language that can be traced throughout much of Treloar’s composing, and that had already emerged in his improvising.

Perhaps the most radical piece on the album is his 1986 studio recording Isolation in a Concrete Rainforest, an audio realisation of a disturbing dystopia or a disturbed psyche – perhaps both! Treloar’s percussion and vocal contributions are multi-tracked and then heavily manipulated with the help of engineer Warwick Maver. Listening to this with the lights out could be a high-risk activity…

The mood is hardly lightened by Night Sounds at Ranthambhor, a 1988 Treloar composition that juxtaposes notated parts for Ros Dunlop’s bass and Bb clarinets against the manipulated field recording of the title. If the disquiet of the previous piece is anthropological by definition, this time the effect is of all the black horrors that nature can hurl at us. Dunlop actually sits out for long stretches, but her eerie, challenging lines are exquisitely rendered.

Forty Thousand Years could not be a bigger contrast. A 1983 studio recording for a piece of radio drama, this has Treloar on drums, Ron Reeves (percussion) and Colin Offord (mouth bow flute, chan) cooking up an extraordinarily vibrant groove, across the top of which Roger Frampton’s wailing sopranino comes hurtling in a startling one-take solo.

If this album is your entrée to the Of Other Narratives series, I heartily recommend you back and explore the other five. Treloar’s timeless work lies at the pinnacle of Australian creative music.