Is it a signal of intent that the opening piece on Chris Abrahams latest solo album does not contain the instrument for which he is best known? Well yes and no, as in previous solo editions Abrahams has been content to indulge in all manner of experimental approaches, using, electronics, synth and musique concrete gestures, with only periodic nods to the piano. Yet by opening with the obtuse ‘Liter Cold Laptop’, with it’s shimmery electrics, string instruments, and some cold brutal textural synth, and pushing the more overtly piano pieces back in the sequencing, he is making it clear that this is not the Necks minus the other two guys.
But what it is, and what it does tends to remain a mystery, even after countless listens. There’s a real diversity of ingredients and approaches here. Shimmering electronics merge with loops and delays, synthesizers crackle and pop, organs drone, percussion drips, babbles, croaks, and snaps as bells ring, winds howl and the piano sounds like a harpsichord, a stringed instrument, and gasp, sometimes even a piano.
It can be settling and unsettling. In fact it feels like a visit to a series of moods or emotional spaces, as the pieces don’t necessarily develop in a musical way, and as such there isn’t such a heavy feeling of authorship hanging over this collection. They’re more like musical field recordings, and creating this novel experience offers Abrahams a certain kind of freedom to do whatever he wants, build texture or density, maintain the momentum or simply let things peter out.
When the piano does come, on the second piece, ‘Scale Upon the Land’ it’s above a subtle bed of warm electrics, and Abrahams plays a series of flowery runs, that over time begins to interact with the amorphous background. It’s a lush gorgeous suite of sound, and demonstrates his desire to integrate his disparate ingredients into one thematically consistent emotionally resonant world.
He creates some truly peculiar worlds though, such as ‘Clung Eloquent,’ which is electro-acoustic cocktail music, with Abrahams offering tinkery cocktail piano that builds, evolves, gets lost and becomes much more complex over a subtle bed that may or may not be field recordings. That’s the beauty of Fluid to The Influence – there’s so much unknown. Yet it is a truly unique collection of disparate tunes, disparate ingredients and disparate approaches. It veers between electro acoustic, experimental electronics, musique concrete, all with a strong musical element throughout, and never really settles or pledges allegiance to any, and in doing so continues to keep us all guessing.