We’ve been fans of percussionist and composer Laurence Pike since first hearing Triosk in the early 2000’s. We’ve followed his work in Pivot which became PVT, saw him pop up on a Flanger album, and really enjoyed his two duo albums with Australian jazz pianist Mike Nock. He also formed a trio with Luke Abbott on modular synthesiser and Portico Quartet’s Jack Wyllie on saxophone called Szun Waves who have released a couple of albums. This May he will be releasing his second solo album, Holy Spring on UK’s Leaf label, so we thought it was a good opportunity to ask him about the music that moves him.
Making my album Holy Spring was an unusual experience. Almost as if the music already existed, but I had to uncover it, give it a framework. Even some of the sampled sounds (which I clearly created) seem surprising to me now. I don’t know where they came from. It was in many ways an unconscious process, so I thought it might be interesting to look back here and examine some of the things I have been listening to over the last couple of years that may have influenced it.
It seems you can break down the bulk of my recent listening into roughly three categories;
Japanese Ambient/New Age, Eastern European Choral, and last but not least; the German label ECM. I have started listening almost exclusively to instrumental music again in the last 5 years. It’s also interesting for me to note that the majority of these tracks don’t feature any drums either. Luke Abbott (from Szun Waves) tells me that I’m in the jazz odyssey period of my career, and that I should embrace it. I think he might be right.
Hiroshi Yoshimura – ‘Surround’ – Soundscape 1: Surround (Misawa Home 1986)
This album has become a constant force in my life in the 2 years since I was introduced to it. Originally commissioned by a Japanese industrial company as background music for pre-fabricated display homes in the mid 1980’s, Yoshimura’s balanced economy of ideas, sounds and atmosphere make this album a near perfect musical experience that easily matches (if not surpasses) any of Brian Eno’s best ambient works. A desert island disc (if you can find a physical copy of it for under $700…).
Kit Downes -‘Kings’ – Obsidian (ECM 2018)
On paper a record of solo pipe organ improvisations might not immediately be everyone’s idea of a good time, but I had to have this album after hearing the first 20 seconds of the opening track. I can definitely say I haven’t listened to anything more than ‘Obsidian’ in the last 12 months. Perhaps it’s the antiquated and architectural nature of the instrument itself, but Kit’s music feels like a mystical artefact, but also extremely alive, like you can hear the walls breathing. Pure magic.
Terje Rypdal – ‘Avskjed’ – Descendre (ECM 1980)
One of my favourite ECM records from a golden period for the label. The very early 1980s was an interesting point of transition in European jazz, particularly as musicians took up new technology like synthesizers and tried to incorporated them into acoustic improvisation. It could often be a real disaster, but this album does it seamlessly; creating a world of ethereal Nordic synth free jazz (including great performances by one of my favourite drummers, Jon Christensen).
John Surman/Jack Dejohnette – ‘Nestor’s Saga’ – The Amazing Adventures Of Simon Simon (ECM 1981)
Much like Terje Rypdal’s ‘Descendre’ – John Surman’s music embraced the possibility of synths in the early 1980’s. This track is right in the zone of my current jazz odyssey leanings – a 10+ min epic that slowly builds and culminates with my hero Jack Dejohnette creeping in on his trademark ride cymbal and driving the music into another dimension.
H Takahashi – ‘Pulse’- Body Trip (Constellation Tatsu 2016)
I can’t tell you much about this Japanese musician, there’s next to no information about him online, except that I’ve heard a rumour he made this music on his phone on the way to and from work on the Tokyo Metro. It’s one of those albums that I keep returning to, especially whilst in transit myself.
Tonu Korvits – ‘Seitsme Linnu Seitse Und – Dream 7’ – Mirror (ECM New Series 2016)
My friend and collaborator Mike Nock recommended the music of Estonian composer Tonu Korvits to me as he ‘had a feeling I might dig it’. I don’t think he could have realised this album would led me into a deep exploration of Eastern European choral music, of which there seems to be an especially rich vein in Estonia (much of which has been beautifully documented by ECM records). You can hear a subtle nod to this world in my use of melodic synth voices throughout Holy Spring.
Jakob Bro – ‘Oktober’ – Gefion (ECM 2013)
Even though I grew up with jazz, and studied it out of high school, I went through a very lengthy period where I just didn’t want to know about it, especially contemporary stuff. This beautiful album by Jakob Bro reinstalled some faith for me in the idea of jazz being about sound, mood, and a group concept. Nothing much happens on this record by most people’s notions of jazz; no big virtuosic solos, complex chord changes or rhythmic devices. Instead the focus is on storytelling and atmosphere. Not to say that playing is sub-par – you’ll struggle to hear a more musical and restrained contemporary trio album. Jon Christensen’s drumming on this one is zen level mastery too; he plays in waves of sound that almost completely abandon the conventions of the instrument.
Showa 44 – ‘Trail’ – Kaihogyo (Bandcamp 2017)
Australian drummer Simon Barker has long been an influence on my music, and I think Showa 44 (his duo with guitarist Carl Dewhurst) are one Sydney’s best kept secrets. Their recordings lean more towards ambient/drone territory, although the last time I saw them live it sounded more like someone had put Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ on a VHS tape and left it in the sun for 6 weeks.
Nico Niquo – ‘Space Inside Your Head’ – In A Slient Way (Orange Milk Records 2017)
This is one of many albums my brother Richard has recommended to me via his exploration of bandcamp over the last few years. Nico’s music is immaculately produced. I was so excited to discover after hearing this album that it came from a young musician from Melbourne. I genuinely think he is the most exciting electronic artist in Australia right now, and I’m a big fan of his liberal and literal use of jazz standard track and album titles.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Kaneda – Akira OST
I remember seeing Akira in the cinema when I was only 9 years old, and it blew my mind on a number of levels. The soundtrack in particular really stayed with me, and I finally bought myself a copy of it a couple of years ago. I always assumed Geinoh Yamashirogumi was the composer, but it turns out it’s a collective ensemble of ‘non-professional’ musicians. I’m especially fascinated by the shamanistic combination of percussion and voices on this recording.