Robert Vincs: Devic Kingdom

Devic Kingdom's fifteen pieces typically pair Robert Vincs' woodwinds with exotic backings suggestive of ancient cultures (gamelan, African, etc.), making for jarring juxtapositions that are provocative but far from unappealing. Vincs is your prototypical forward-thinker, a musician fully schooled in multiple traditions but passionately committed to taking the sonic road less traveled. He's both a lecturer (at the Victorian College of the Arts) and studio engineer, and his career spans many decades: in the ‘80s, he was a major exponent of the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (his sounds were used by Thomas Dolby and Kate Bush), and has composed extensively for multiple dance, theatre, and film projects. On much of this release, he recorded his saxello, tenor sax, Korean Bone Flute, and Greenwood leather horn in single takes at various sites in the Victorian Central Highlands, and often, especially in the pure solo pieces, the immense echo and reverberation of the countryside emerges as a key sonic element (e.g., “Not Far From Hanging Rock (for BB)” and “Vision Quest”).

One of the most appealing things about Devic Kingdom is that every piece brings an unexpected sonic surprise or stylistic twist. The ancient feel of Korean Bone Flute and gamelan bell tones in “Saraghina” is far removed from the funkier “Light Bomb” where animated beat rumble and clatter aligns Devic Kingdom to contemporary electronic music-making. Vincs also combines his rapid tenor playing in “Avatar” with a stream of chanting voices that recalls Tuvan throat singing, and layers his saxophone honk over a blurry African-electronic funk base during “The Trainman.” In this piece and others, the piercing wail of Vincs' saxello playing is remarkably reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's soprano; at such moments, the material sounds like long-lost demo tapes Shorter intended to bring to Weather Report's Mysterious Traveler session but misplaced along the way. In such instances, Devic Kingdom resembles a decades-removed second cousin to earthy Weather Report material like “Scarlet Woman” and “American Tango.” It's a solo album in the truest sense with one exception: in the closer “Playing with Tears,” Scott Dunbabbin's SDIII six-string upright bass adds a deep, somber counterpoint to the high-pitched whistle of flute tones. Though Devic Kingdom gives Vincs numerous opportunities to showcase his virtuosic playing ability, the album's more distinguished for its distinctive fusion of multiple genres, rhythms, and sonic textures.

September 2007