Kevin Purdy is somewhat of a Sydney institution with his long history in music production spanning acts such as Tooth and, most notably in his solo guise, with a series of mysterious and wonderful audio documents over the past ten years.
Body Variations is a forty minute exercise in psyched-out and delightfully dusty cinematic pop. In some ways a return to the tone and feel of his 2004 pop ubermenschFairytale Insurance,Body Variations is refreshingly idiosyncratic and freeform. I have always interpreted Purdy’s style as an advanced form of melodic-Krautrock, incorporating effective repetition and driving percussion that provides a rock-solid bedrock for deft improvisation and playful melodic movement.
The six minute introductory piece offers the jaunty and playful melodic crux of the whole movement, then seamlessly and startlingly segueways into a wistful yet beautiful cascading groove. Transient two bar loops of static and whirrs appear nestled around the more formed pieces with recurrent melodic motifs developing, then deconstructing. Morse-code-like single note synths chirp away amongst the mix of organic washes of sound and chords.
Unexpected vocal and instrumental sampling introduces what appears to be the second movement, and lingers just long enough to be a very effective transition into a more beat driven jam, only to reduce back to esoteric spookiness and spoken word, with the ever present crackle of vinyl surface-noise.
A Hoedown space jam then briefly ensues before traversing back to the recurring theme of the entire piece (a two part drone-style chord). Fantastic lilting string lines then magically appear (courtesy of Peter Hollo of Fourplay). Said string part is then countered by some more sombre sounding horn parts that offer suitable segway to the second half of the work.
The twenty minute mark heralds a short respite of sorts, with magpies squawking as an introduction to the playful and oddly farmyard/barnyard-themed reprise conjuring up scenes of dusty open roads and endless optimism. The piece eventually retracts to reveal beautiful shards of cello accompanied by flowing monosynth bass runs, motioning toward the thirty minute point that arrives with very clever use of found sound and speech snippets that effectively act like punctuation marks throughout the entire record (something that works startlingly effectively for a concept so deceptively simple).
A more brooding minimal groove then materialises, teasing with its hooks, yet never blooms into full stride, instead managing to intrigue and perplex in the best way possible. Eventually a wonderful dusty groove surfaces, featuring the lilting percussion and ever-playful basslines that remain a colourful feature throughout the whole experience. The ebbing groove subsides to reveal the ever-shimmering cello and piano refrain that concludes the album.
A more satisfying and inventive forty minutes I can not say I have experienced in a very long time, all the more impressive taking into account the improvised feel of a lot of the playing. Purdy remains a unique, wonderful and undervalued Australian artist whose repertoire is gradually becoming a stellar pastiche of the melodic, found and or sampled sound, live playing, and very very clever production and arrangement. Body Variations is such a logical and satisfying progression from his Illumination album of 2012, and I for one will wait with delight and anticipation for his next adventure in audio.
Body Variations is available directly through Bandcamp.