A composer asks Don McGlashan, Nathan Haines and others to rethink her works.
Eve de Castro-Robinson rethought at her own request.
The latest album from Auckland-based composer Eve de Castro-Robinson, The Gristle of Knuckles, borrows its title from the savage Melody Forensic by American poet Kyle Dargan.
De Castro-Robinson has bravely handed over nine existing compositions to musicians, encouraging them in energetic re-imaginings of her music. There’s gristle, all right, but also skin, bone, laughter, sweat and tears in a remarkable project that has improvisation at its heart.
The inspired matching of artists to works and the composer’s poetic descriptions are part of the pleasure. Of Nathan Haines’s irreverent version of Doggerel, which opens the disc, she writes, “Driving a dirty dance, Nathan tames the barking dog, licking his chops and trotting and tapping a groovy line in layered levity.”
Genre categories are nowhere in sight. Don McGlashan’s “vulnerable, swoony croon” brings intimacy to The long dream of waking, his guitar the musical canvas originally painted by violin, clarinet and piano for Len Lye’s words. ConunDRUMs, which was written for percussionist
Gareth Farr, becomes a wonderful conversation between Ron Samsom and Kingsley Melhuish on drum kit and taonga puoro respectively. Delaney Davidson demands attention with his gritty singing in another Lye setting, the blues Trouble, trouble mind.
The spiritual power of Mere Boynton’s voice floats from the mists in the vocal lament Hau. In contrast, small blue is a driving jazz improvisation in energetic showers of sound by pianist Kevin Field and Samsom. Field returns for Passion Flower, in the guise of piano-bar cliché though based on Dame Ethel Smyth’s The March of the Women from British suffragette days.
The multicoloured sound palette of saxophonist Callum Passells illuminates Countercurrents from 1989 and leads us to Stumbling Trains, a renamed remix of the composer’s Tumbling Strains. Cellist Ashley Brown’s brilliant and passionate performance is the most fist-clenching of the set – “as if he’s sawing the cello in half”, suggests de Castro-Robinson.
Key rings, a playful little found-sound coda by the composer and her co-producer, Steve Garden of Rattle, relaxes the tension and closes a disc of inventive surprises and exuberant music-making.
THE GRISTLE OF KNUCKLES, Eve de CastroRobinson (Rattle)
Nathan Haines: “a groovy line in layered levity.” Top, Don McGlashan.