Chris Abrahams and Clare Cooper – Germ Studies for Guzheng and DX7 (Splitrec)

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My strongest (not fondest) memory of the DX-7 is of a shabby cover band performing ‘Sunglasses at Night’s on Cottesloe Beach sometime in the eighties. That sound is a hard one to trace here, fortunately, where The Necks’s ivory tinkler Chris Abrahams turns his hands to deconstructing the synthesizer, alongside Berlin-based Australian harpist Clare Cooper on the guzheng (Chinese zither). The pieces are very short (between five seconds and five minutes), as are the gestures: small clinks, spurts, pings and belches, the familiar language of reductionist electro-acoustic improv. Recorded between 2003 and 2008, this fascinating release reflects such an extended, intensive period of creative involvement, and is complimented by the lavish presentation: a book-sized two disc set, with fold-out poster featuring Anthony Braxton-esque sketchings by friends and colleagues (Oren Ambarchi, Tony Buck, Stephen O’Malley, Otomo Yoshihide) representing the 198
tracks/germs that make up this behemoth.

Subtitled ‘198 scratches, itches and ailments’, the analogy with germs is entirely appropriate – pieces flit to life like mating cells, making skewed, suprise lurches and appearing generally feverish throughout. The interplay between artists is never less than enthralling, their actions raw, revealing, and lovingly recorded, a ceaseless procession of sounds veering off in all directions. Instrumentally its an odd pairing, sure, but seen as an updated form of the violin sonata, in Webern-esque miniature, drawn by post-onkyo minimalists, it begins to make sense.

Joshua Meggitt

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