Drums scraped away in triple time. The guitarist picked out jazz notes and ground them like a rockstar. Xylophones floated away. The crowd was swaying. The band was sweating. A bloke yelled ‘I’m a rock pig’ with a drunken smile. No, this wasn’t pub rock and it wasn’t post-rock. It was Pivot.
Pivot have been playing around Sydney for a few years now, their reputation steadily growing as imaginative live performers straddling a number of genres. Based in the discipline of free improvisation, the five-piece combine rock, electronica and jazz into a beautifully building and thudding opera. Songs build up from a single phrase and swerve off in any direction as individual players add their flavours to the boiling broth. With their combined musical talent, a grant to record their first album and interest from influential European musicians, Pivot may be on the brink of big things.
‘The philosophy of Pivot is to create a seamless mixture of sounds without it being ‘fusion’ music,’ says guitarist Richard Pike. “This has a lot to do with the instrumentation we’ve chosen too ‘ that is drums/bass/guitar/keys/turntables. They are the five of the most common modern instruments. So it’s jazz, it’s rock, it’s glitch, but it’s not at all.”
Citing influences as diverse as Aphex Twin, The Police and John Coltrane, Pivot commit themselves to mastering a range of genres and combining them into focused and concise improvisation. While many jazz musicians do try and pursue a more contemporary sound, “inevitably it ends up sounding like Weather Report or drum n bass with a saxophone solo,” says Richard. “That stuff is all valid I guess, but it doesn’t do jazz any favours in terms of progressing it into the 21st century. As much as I love and respect its history, and the art of improvising, I want to make jazz music that reflects what’s actually happening today.”
With a few years to hone their skills and a grant from the Australia Council’s Buzz initiative, they have begun recording an album. A mixture of improvisation and pre-written tracks, they are recording overdub guitars, keyboards, samples, vibraphone and percussion. “A similar recording approach to bands like Tortoise, Trans Am or Flanger,” says Richard. Citing Burnt Friedman’s band Flanger is not surprising; both bands combine jazz rhythms and electronica. “Burnt’s project Flanger has probably had a direct influence on me,” says Richard, ” ‘Glitch’ music with improvisation is a very exciting concept to me. It’s musical aim, in terms of the mix of jazz impro and electronic exploration is very inspiring, it’s very forward thinking.”
The compliment was returned when last year Friedman invited Pivot to jam over some of his pre-recorded loops after seeing them play at Frigid. The outcome will be a Nu Dub Players vinyl only EP release on German ~Scape records. Richard will also be provding some Django Reinhardt inspired guitar improvisation to the next Flanger record and Friedman has remixed a Pivot track, ‘The DLF Faces The Flux Modem God.’ Quite a coup.
Pivot are a band with everything. Huge talent, a musical vision, topshelf international connections. All that’s left is record the album, save music and rule the world. “It’s exciting,” says Laurence “and hopefully our album will be too good to ignore.” I think he might be right.
Pivot’s Top Ten
The Police ‘ Regatta De Blanc
RP: The greatest rock band of all time. Sting’s songwriting is clear and succinct, yet the energy of the band is so raw and adventurous.
Boards of Canada ‘ Music Has The Right To Children
RP: Best analog keyboard work on the planet. This stuff is poetry that speaks to you more with every listen. Like any good poem should. These guys have an incredibly intense and acute sense of texture and sounds. Sick ass beats too.
Miles Davis ‘ Kind of Blue
LP: It’s almost clich’ to include this one, as so much has been written about it. I’ve got maybe 50 of Miles’ records, and perhaps there are other albums that may be more relevant to Pivot (Live-Evil, On the Corner etc), but discovering this album was such an important and influential turning point.
Autechre ‘ LP5
RP: A thesis could be written on this album! It’s totally pure computer music. It’s faceless and inhuman, but at the same time darkly emotional. The CD artwork communicates this feeling too. If you listen to it alone late at night you feel like Autechre is a computer struggling to communicate with you.
John Coltrane ‘ A Love Supreme
LP: A landmark album. Coltrane’s classic quartet at its peak. You will struggle to find a more spiritual, intense and uplifting record in any genre. A meaty breakfast album.
Aphex Twin ‘ Richard D. James album
LP: I can clearly remember the first time I heard this album when it was released. It was like I was listening to something from 20 years in the future, or perhaps another planet. A truly amazing and visionary album.
Tortoise ‘ Millions Now Living Will Never Die
RP: This album blew my mind progressively with every listen. It’s intricate soundtrack music. Everything is thrown in there without it sounding like a hybrid. Great headphone music.
Radiohead ‘ OK Computer
RP: This album re-instilled my faith in rock music. It proves that 2 guitars and keyboards can live in wondrous harmony together. Thom Yorke’s lyrics paint this amazingly perceptive picture of modern life. Lyrics, of course, bear no direct relevance to Pivot (as we don’t have a singer), but the artistic and modern awareness is definitely important to me.
Squarepusher ‘ Feed Me Weird Things
LP: Tom Jenkinson’s approach to drum programming is amazingly organic, as if he was actually improvising like a jazz musician, at a million miles an hour. Burnt Friedman is the other master of this style of programming (check out ‘Templates’ by Flanger). I guess that’s why this album makes so much sense to me and it’s one of the many things I love about it. With an extra limb or two, I reckon I could play the drums like him.
The Necks ‘ Piano, Bass, Drums
RP: The Necks have developed this organic and totally improvised concept into a well-mastered art. Creating music from nothing but their own collective unconscious ‘ that’s been a real inspiration for me. Lloyd (Swanton, bass player of The Necks) came down to see us play once, which I thought was very cool of him, as I’m such a fan.
LP: This or any of their albums is an obvious influence for Pivot and also Triosk.
Laurence Pike put together Triosk with Pivot keyboard player Adrian Klumps and bass player Ben Waples. An acoustic/electronic jazz-based piano trio that has come together with another recent German visitor, Jan Jelinek. But their meeting was a little more unusual. Pike was taking random fragments from the radio late at night to make loops which later became the basis for a few Triosk tunes. Pike later learnt that he had sampled ‘Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records’ by Jan Jelinek, who himself had sampled fragments of jazz records to capture it’s textures. The fact that Pike was sampling Jelinek’s album in an attempt to make jazz is a beautifully ironic musical moment.
During the subsequent tour Pike apprached Jelinek and explained how he had come across Jeninek’s music and what he was using it for. Jelinek was flattered and after listing to a Triosk demo suggested they record a collaborative ep.
“I can’t imagine a more ideal artist than Jan to work with Triosk,” says Pike “Its amazing to have someone of his calibre to act as the fourth voice in the group.
Artists such as Jan are pushing things in new directions, which is really inspiring. What’s most exciting for me is the rare opportunity to realise my vision in terms of this project, and potentially share it with a wider audience. I think the results, regardless of what genre it may qualify as, will be some really unique music.”