The piano begins to weave its gentle melodies, repetitions of chord progressions that are caught and transformed in a lull of mechanical slices. The atmosphere rises, heavy and thick in the distance. I’ve lost my own internal sense of time and place, but found this moment – this series of moments composed to create a multifaceted whole that is Adrian Klumpes’ first solo effort titled Be Still.
The pulse of the album extends onwards, weaving through foreign landscapes. There’ so much space and intimacy here, but then I’m sharply transported back to the sounds of the inner-city streets as Adrian himself looms in front of me. I say “looms’ because I’m super short and he seems rather tall in my presence. I quickly do away with the headphones, introductions are made and we settle down with a beer in hand. It’s a hot summer’ day in Sydney, so beer seems more appropriate than coffee but Adrian jokingly teases about this being his last for the post-Christmas silly season hangover. It’s time to get back to work, not that he ever really left it. For every ten minutes that we are here, there’ probably another email flowing in regarding promotions and touring, not only for Be Still, but also for his main band Triosk. They’re an improvisational jazz trio that Adrian plays keys and electronics for, his day job so to speak, and they’re planning a European tour with Leaf labelmate Colleen, so there is much preparation to be done.
Still, at this point, there is no sense of rush or flurry from Adrian. It’s clear time is a precious essence that he utilises to the fullest as he explains the meaning behind the album’ title. â€œBeing “still’ itself can often mean if things are really hectic, then you actually need to give yourself time to be still. So rather than thinking, “I am still’, it’s more like, “I want to be still.’ So this explains why the first track Cornered begins the album on quite a frantic note, capturing the tension of this ambiguous desire.â€ Adrian continues, â€œYou can be still and still be moving really fast, do you know what I mean?â€, answering his own question with a snippet of anecdotal memory, â€œI listened to a lot of music in the past, with the windows in the car shut up and ambient music on inside. Driving really fast or driving in traffic, or whatever, it becomes a montage of things going fast on the outside yet trying to be still on the inside at the same time.â€
Given this emotional context, anyone expecting a “chillout’s experience would be bitterly disappointed and for good reason. Even though there are many points of calm and a natural sense of stillness that comes from the piano, Adrian doesn’ write music to encourage a disengagement from it and he certainly wouldn’ want it to be “background muzak’. Rather, he’ been playing the piano since the age of five and it’s a love that’s fuelled his desire for performance and creation, writing original music and taking chances even while he was learning to play ‘Fly Me to the Moon’.
Many of his early dreams came true through working with local Sydney bands like Triosk and post-rockers Pivot. He recounts how â€œin those first four years of Triosk everything felt so new all the time, it was really beautiful.â€
Yet, fulfilling his vision of â€œone day doing a solo piano albumâ€ has evoked the same kind of joy all over again. With Be Still, he truly embraces minimalism, balancing the energy of spontaneity and improvisation by composing the piano pieces within a space of three weeks and recording it all in merely half a day. The idea was to â€œcreate really simplyâ€ and extend the piano parts in post production, transforming them through manipulation and sampling. In this sense the process is very different to what Adrian is accustomed to doing with Triosk. He explains how when Triosk go into the recording studio they are armed with ideas for songs that they have been improvising in front of live audiences for years, whereas Be Still is very much about the present.
On this note, I’m very curious as to how this material will translate as a live show but Adrian is, just now, very convinced that it will work. He recalls an ironic instance where a friend of his asked, â€œAre you going to play it live or keep recording?’ To which he adamantly replied that Be Still was “just’s his recording project, maintaining that “as fun as it is’ he’d “rather concentrate on doing live stuff for Triosk’. That very night he received an email from a festival organiser in Belgium requesting him to play his new solo material in support to Triosk. â€œIs that possible?â€ â€œOf course it is!â€
So now Adrian, and Triosk have committed to a six-week tour squeezing in at least 30 shows in that short space of time. I’m floored by the grueling schedule when I ask, â€œHow do you do it?â€ At first he replies, â€œWell you can do that in Europeâ€, but then realises I’m not referring to a matter of geography, but rather a point of physical possibility. â€œI don’ know if I will survive personally or emotionally or physically, but to make things financially viable you have to work that hardâ€, he responds. â€œPerhaps the greatest thing about touring is the balance it provides. While it doesn’ necessarily translate into creative experienceâ€¦(it) deepens the drive and motivation to come home and write.â€
Despite the international accolade, Adrian’ future plans revolve around home. He reveals that he’ started work on the next solo album and plans for its release in early 2008 on Leaf. He’ also involved in a collaboration with Canberra-based label guy/guitarist Shoeb Ahmad in a project they call HAPOEL, with an album due later this year. It’ll be something a little different, droney yet melodic and gentle. Adrian concludes with a serious air, â€œMelody and human involvement is more important than beats or anythingâ€ then cheekily proclaims, â€œAt least that’s how I feel about things today!â€ Which I think is fair enough. After all, if your goal is experimentation then you would never lock yourself into constraining beliefs that, at some point, may no longer suit your purposes. This is what’s so exciting about Adrian Klumpes’ Be Still – he’ not defeated by limitations, but more interested in how to work within them, finding meaning and beauty in this transcendental approach