From Alexandria VA, Pat Gillis is a regular face in these pages recording as TL0741 and we last heard his music on the albums Circulation and Before Waking, from 2015. I have long associated him with Jeff Surak and Chester Hawkins, who like him favour the dark mode in their solo electronic acts, and also accrue layers of menacing sound in their well-crafted brew.
On today’s item, Refractory (HC3 MUSIC HC3TL0CD6), Gillis hints at the “alchemist” metaphor which is often a rich seam of imagery for many musicians, and uses track titles such as ‘Channel’, ‘Distillation’, ‘Dust Devils’ and ‘Hydrothermal’ to allude to various aspects of his sonic cookery range in poetic fashion. I like the way he describes his work as a “harmony-avoidant universe”, which is his way of saying he eschews conventional melodic techniques in favour of pure processed non-specific sounds. Yet, through these ingenious combinations of “prepared material” and electronic music created without keyboards, he still arrives at his own special strain of musical form which engages the listener, taking us on a foreboding and lonely journey by means of its whirrs, crackles, and semi-regular pulses binding together the many darkish hues.
For previous outings, I may have likened TL0741 to an action painter like Jackson Pollock as a way of accounting for his very hands-on way of working; but now I find the 2019 model is more refined, more considered; no less abstract, but the action painting and gestural work has now given way to a very concentrated and focussed way of working. One might almost find it trance-inducing, were it not for the rather grim and uncertain moods that it conjures; the heavyweight here, and indeed the centrepiece of the album, is the 15:44 ‘Hydrothermal’, a superb piece of ugly-beautiful electronic meditation which treks us through ambiguous zones with an assured tread. Tune in for more examples of the new, subtler compositional methods of TL0741, and learn how his hammers have given way to precision screwdrivers. From 2nd January 2020.