Tim Friese-Greene \ Ten Sketches For Piano Trio [LTMCD 2535]
10 Sketches for Piano Trio is the fourth solo release from Tim Friese-Greene. Since leaving the ambit of Talk Talk in 1992 Tim has recorded two albums as Heligoland, but 10 Sketches For Piano Trio is the first to be released under his own name. "It didn't seem right for it to be a Heligoland album," he explains. "It is too singular."
And so it is. Because the classic featured line-up of drums, acoustic bass and piano is largely familiar to the ear, we might assume the instruments will take up roles normally associated with jazz. But here the playing and attitude subverts this expectation, and delivers something more primitive on a technical level, more rigorous on a formal level, and something more pared-down harmonically. Halfway, the listener begins to pick up on the disparate influences, from Tim's early experience engineering Sex Pistols sessions, to later experiments in ambient minimalism with Talk Talk, including the seminal albums Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock.
With Tim playing all the instruments, there is no following of any pre-arranged script, although the very concise thematic material (sometimes just a smudge of a few notes) is tightly developed, in a way that recalls Janacek or Debussy. But elusive in form though it is, neither could it be described as free, as the 'musicians' are apparently knitted together by a kind of secret code, in a fragile symbiosis.
Recorded in an old malthouse with a piano Tim picked up in a local market for 50 Pounds, and mixed by Grammy award winner Phill Brown (Eno, Bob Marley, John Martyn) in the valve-heaven of London's Westpoint Studios, 10 Sketches revels in its contradictions, and defies judgement in relation to anything except absolutes.
Available on CD and download.
"A quirky, freeform curio whose charms multiply with each spin. Here, in a remote malthouse, producer and multi-instrumentalist Tim Friese-Greene overdubs all three parts in a sequence of impromptu trios, on which engineer Phill Brown ensures an immediate, live room feel" (Uncut, 09/2009)
"Tim Friese-Greene plays piano as if going for an unplanned walk. The scenery changes at an easy pace, with minor loops off the main track, but no startling eruptions or violent eradications of what's come before. The rhythm section ambles around the piano, never too close nor too far. Thoroughly enigmatic, the effect is a flickering tension between improvised and composed atmospheres" (The Wire, 08/2009)
"Tim Friese-Greene has meandered along an unconventional path in music, and after a few years of abstract indie instrumentals as Heligoland he has taken yet another sharp left turn with what is ostensibly a jazz album. That is to say, it's a jazz album in instrumentation (piano, double bass and drums) and style (technically precise, improvised) - but it is singularly lacking in jazzy cliche. There's no twiddly soloing or wilful discord, not a hint of those hey-look-at-this awkwardly clever chords. These are tidy, even austere 'sketches', each one precisely unfolding a particular musical idea without ornamentation, and rarely in more than three minutes. Like eavesdropping an intense conversation between witty philosophers, it's a bracing but edifying listen" (Word, 08/2009)
"An impressive piece of work" (Exclaim! 09/2009)