Chris Abrahams. He plays keyboards in The Necks, of course, and much else besides on this, his latest solo album. It’s tempting to describe Fluid To The Influence (Room40) as a ‘scrapbook’ affair, since each of its eight pieces differs in both instrumentation and effect, but that does no justice to its carefully crafted ambience. Rather, it’s a portmanteau album: eight pieces that were conceived individually, perhaps during Necks tour downtimes, and secreted away for later fine-tuning.
Each piece blends acoustic instrumentation with electronic treatments. The most tempting points of comparison, vis-a-vis possible influences, are all collaborative rather than individual efforts: Fenn O’Berg, say, or Rehberg & Bauer. Anyone who likes turn of the century Touch or Mego will love this, as will anyone who’s already tuned into Abrahams’ collaborations with old Recedent Mike Cooper, cf. their 2008 Room40 debut Oceanic Feeling Like. On Fluid To The Influence it’s the closing cut, the multi layered but static “Rust and Comet”, that comes closest to the Abrahams/Cooper sound, with its hypnotic, guileless guitar figures playing over electronic murmuration.
No two pieces here are quite alike, but the album hangs together nicely as a beguilement of finely-honed contrasts.
Opening cut “One-Liter Cold Laptop” has two contrasting halves. The first half contrasts slippery, shimmering electronica with what might be a guitar’s steel strings, sounded by a small motor, buzzing in tension. The second half is much more viscous and grimy, its sound concocted from obscurely processed, feculent and glitchy scutterings.
Guitar, or perhaps a piano’s prepared harp, also plays across “Scale Upon The Land”, while piano ripples, radiant as daybreak, over diaphanous electronic shimmering. The piano is rarely Abraham’s focus, but “Clung, Eloquent” is a thoughtfully melodic exercise with concise ivory strikes penetrating an aqueous trickle of electronica and a further, distant murmuration of obscure sound. On the similarly tiered “The Stones Continued Intermittently”, Abrahams plays dolorous electric and introspective acoustic piano over chain-rattle percussion phonography.
Of the more boldly artificial tracks, “Trumpets of Bindweed”, with its chromatic metallic whorl married to organ drones, sounds like steelpan Oval. The effect is rapturous, but Abrahams doesn’t labour it. And “Receiver” is just as concise, a gorgeous piece of compacted, hard-disk concréte comprised of multiform micro-sound samples. Some of these sounds are metallic, and might be sourced from a zither. They combine otherwise percussive, close-contact electro-acoustic sounds in a sonically detailed spheroid.
Abrahams assembles each track with a craftsman’s sensitivity, matching form to function and detail to effect. “As Tranquil As An Apple” bubbles up suddenly, rounded and gleaming in its artificiality, so Abrahams adds a layer of naive acoustic percussion. The effect is both crafted and organic, simultaneously futuristic and homespun. This is supremely personal music. Working alone, Abrahams can be content to forge new relationships in sound, relying on feeling or practiced intuition to dictate when a piece is complete.
The contrast with Necks percussionist Tony Buck’s solo project Radiation is telling. Buck’s material is riff- or rhythm-based, tending to a physical post-rock vibe, with dramatic mood changes making its impacts unpredictable. Abrahams’ solo music, by contrast, is more intimate, and describes its own constructivist logic.
Fluid To The Influence is an often beautiful, beautifully crafted piece of work. It’s an expression perhaps, of the multiform ways in which Abrahams absorbs and transmutes his experience of sound and music.
Chris Abrahams piano, electronics.