Pateras / Baxter / Brown
Bern / Melbourne / Milan
AUSTRALIA IMMEDIATA IMM015 2 x CD (2019)
Only just recovered my breath after tripping over Anthony Pateras‘ epic Collected Works 2 about which much more could have been said, but perhaps much less read. That anthology of exploratory numbers from over 13 years indicated many of the directions Pateras’ work has taken over the years, and showed the more open-ended side of his work, variously and collectively, for orchestra and electronics. Something listeners can space out to as easily as intellectualise over. The following collection is another kind of anthology – more of a family album – where interaction, not exploration, is the driving force. This collection of superbly recorded live recordings is a more disciplined set of improvisations for prepared guitar (David Brown), prepared piano (Pateras) and drums (Sean Baxter); captured (almost) in their entirety from the cities named in the title.
This trio of top-of-their-game musicians is as comfortable interacting as top-level sportsmen practicing for a tournament, even when it means repurposing the instrument, as does Brown for much of the time: largely a machine gun, ‘everything is percussion’ line with tons of quickfire repartee, where even the ‘quieter’ sections are pregnant with meaning. Only the mutual sounding-out of ‘McIlwraith’ (2002) and the relatively unassuming ambience of ‘Milan’ (2008) buck this tunnel-vision trend by dropping the tempo and/or volume. I repeat: relatively. There are none of AMM’s ambiguous silences here. Even Milan’s audience knows exactly when to clap.
Confounding the impression that these increasingly intuitive get-togethers reek of insularity, the trio operates a transparency policy. At the serious end of the spectrum is Baxter’s meticulous write-up of each recorded date. At the other, they jokingly offer the Bern audience (2006) a chance for requests – ‘punk rock’ or ‘Britney Spears’ – a jocularity that sums up their musical praxis as they exhaust their variables with the single-minded relish (and chops) of a death metal band. Even the span of a decade and a half does little to alter their steroid balls-out dynamic; quite the opposite in fact. They accelerate. With the bulk of their recordings condensed into this package it’s an exhausting listen: as much so as Slayer’s pithy Reign in Blood and as far from the other anthology’s exploratory drones as it gets. However, their precision and pace can easily be marveled at as long as the ears need a bit of rest between sets.