Taylor | Grosse: Tourbillon Solo
Palace of Lights

Characterizing Tourbillon Solo as contemporary gamelan isn't off-the-mark, but it doesn't tell the whole story. It would be more accurate to state that this collaborative outing from Gregory Taylor and Darwin Grosse extends beyond a single style and associated geographical area. On the forty-six-minute set, Taylor (Max/MSP, synthesizers) and Grosse (modular synthesizer, guitar) are joined by Andrew Pask on clarinet on one track (“Kecepatan Rumor”) and Mike Metlay (synthesizer) on two (“Tenum Sepanjang Malam,” “Di Bawah Gunung”).

The opening piece, “Kecepatan Rumor” (The Velocity of Rumor), is emblematic of the material's cross-cultural span: Pask's sinuous clarinet playing imparts to the free-wheeling setpiece both an exotic and jazz-tinged quality, while thrumming drum patterns and synthesizer washes give it an electrified Afrobeat feel. The result mesmerizes in not only crossing genre styles and geographical boundaries but also bridging temporal realms in fusing futuristic and primal elements.

Signature gamelan sounds flow through “Tenum Sepanjang Malam” (Weaving All Night), their metallic bell-like accents muffled by the flickering blur of field recording details. But if that piece largely inhabits a demarcated space, one such as “Menggambar Mesin Jam” (Drawing the Clockwork) locates itself within multiple zones at the same time when ominous synthesizer patterns, metallophone patterns, and piercing vocal expressions figure equally prominently within the arrangement. During “Penyiaran Rahasia” (A Secret Broadcast), on the other hand, stylistic changes occur in sequence, with the meditative gamelan focus of the first half gradually mutating into a sputtering stream of prickly synth punctuations. A sense of urgency understandably comes to the fore during “Perlombaan Untuk Hotelku” (The Race to My Hotel) when the gamelan patterns appear more rapidly, their crystalline interactions suggesting a race involving multiple individuals as opposed to only one.

Tourbillon Solo presents a restless panoply of ever-shifting colour, one whose seven pieces challenge the listener's sense of orientation in their repeated changes in position. In a project that offers an unusual take on the Art Ensemble of Chicago's “Ancient-to-the-Future” ethos, the merging of multiple timbres and styles makes for an arresting and consistently engaging listening experience.

October 2014