Formed in Melbourne’s extremely fertile experimental music scene in 2002, the trio of Anthony Pateras (prepared piano), Dave Brown (prepared guitar) and Sean Baxter (percussion) were already quite well established as individual artists. Baxter and Brown played together in Bucketrider, Lazy, and a trio with sound artist Phillip Samartzis in Western Grey, and Pateras was pursuing his solo work as well as a pretty action packed duo with Robin Fox. At the time it felt like a supergroup, a spikier, more textural and violent take on the Necks, where they’d come together unleash some mind blowing dexterous chaos, then go back to their respective projects as if nothing had happened. They released a couple of albums on Melbourne’s Synaesthesia records, 2003’s Ataxia and 2006’s Gauticle as well as Interference in 2008 on Poland’s emd.pl/records.
Live they were truly quite unique, it’s a cliché but you never really knew what you were going to get. Each had their chops, and each were intent on extending their chosen instrument beyond even their own understanding of how to use it. They were also interested in the materiality of sound, of textures and gestures and wondered what would happen when they put them all together. It was such a strange and unique aesthetic, pretty much universally egoless – each afforded the opportunity of space and time to do whatever they felt was needed. It’s difficult to pin down but it was influenced by jazz, classical music, new music, extreme metal, sound art and free improvisational traditions. You got the sense that even they didn’t know what they were doing half the time, and that was a huge part of the joy – no safety net. Yet they were such great musicians and improvisers that their performances were always compelling, and sometimes even a gut punch.
This collection over 2 CD’s encompasses some of these live performances, and it’s a great representation of their diversity. Instruments (and possibly techniques) feel under real pressure, pushed to the extreme one moment, then a few moments later a delicate interplay ensues. There’s a real understanding of collective dynamics, of density and subtlety as the pieces lurch, swell and cascade forward in increasingly unexpected ways. It’s really difficult to conceive that these sounds were coming from three different individuals, as all of these pieces feel joined up, like one unified quite demented whole created this. The question to me has always been is the sound source some kind of mechanical chaos machine or a living breathing monster? I’m erring towards the latter. In previous reviews I’d somewhat optimistically linked their sounds to a Gamelan Orchestra or some kind of cluttered funk, more than likely due to the density of texture, but listening again over a decade on I’m more bewildered than ever. This is music that exists in your cereal bowl, when you’re doing the dishes, or shaking a dice – or all three at once. It’s not easy music, but it is rewarding.
At the time I don’t think I really appreciated how fascinating and complex this music was, but I was entranced by their propulsive nature, their sheer dynamic energy and uncompromising commitment to the cause. There’s added poignancy now with the sad and untimely passing of percussionist Sean Baxter (who provides a fascinating essay detailing what was going through their minds), and the knowledge that this music can never be created again, but then that was the beauty of this trio, it was never going to be. Each moment of improvisation lived in that moment for a moment before it disappeared. That’s how it was created and also what it was designed for. All that ever existed for this trio was what’s next, and given that is no longer possible this jaw dropping collection of their past glories will have to do.