2017 saw Nathan Liow release his second piano trio album, ‘NO’, featuring Wangaratta National Awards finalist Adam Spiegl on bass, and drummer Justin Olsson. The pretext for Liow’s compositions on this album was the question - how can mathematics be prescribed to holistically conjure visceral, infectious, rhythmic music.
The music on ‘No’ is a deliberate moving away from what Liow’s describes as his previous “obsession with harmonic complexity, the thing that inspired me to play and write music, whilst simultaneously stifling my playfulness and creativity”. What Liow arrives at are a series of mathematical concepts which lay the foundations of a rhythmic map for the music.
“One idea was inspired by my time with pianist and composer Vijay Iyer in Canada at the Banff Centre. He rounds rhythmic values up and down microscopically - it's incredibly difficult to play, but the final result is something deeply moving, visceral and energetic."
Equally compelling are Liow's improvisations on the album. From the incisive semiquaver battling between drums and piano on 'No No No' to Liow's joyfully clumsy piano solo on 'Reducto'. The opening track, titled 'Linecheck' is an excursion on the jazz standard 'Stella By Starlight' with bassist Adam Spiegl, which was never intended to be on the album. "We came into the studio a day early and we simultaneously launched into Stella, it was one of the greatest 4 minutes of ESP with Adam I've experienced in our 10 years working together."
The trio has a holistic and united feeling throughout the album. With Liow's unwavering focus placed on the rhythmic concepts within the sound, wide open spaces were abound for the band to speak clearly, with plenty of compelling solos from all personnel. Adam Spiegl and Justin Olsson generously take on the rhythmic mountains that are Liow's compositions, turning a complex idea into listening that is simple, joyful, and undoubtedly playful.
MUSIC FOR EYES
Music For Eyes is a 20 minute work involving the application of social-practice artist Carmen Papilia's (CAN) sonic mobility-cane, ‘Noise Cane 1.0’; a device that picks up textural and sonic information within the environment of it's user. The sonic information is routed into a custom engineered amplifier which digitally manipulates the signal before amplifying into the space around the user to hear and respond to.
Taking the cane and amp into the outside world resulted in Music For Eyes - a noise-piece and improvised piano work with its beginning seeds in the grains and textures of the surfaces that we walk upon. It draws our attention downward, but not inward. Rather, the work refocuses our visual centric minds to the feeling of what we step on everywhere we go - grass, rock, gravel, carpet, asphalt, and even the roar of the traffic that sends vibrations through the ground and into the cane - and these sounds' potential for musical application.
Inherent within Music For Eyes are the sonic markers of moving through the world, a salience of spacial experience that is at once voyeuristic and intimate. Liow takes this experience and masterfully translates this journey into a pianistic excursion, one that is textural, minimal and deeply thoughtful.
Music For Eyes and Carmen Papalia's sonic-mobility cane are exhibiting in April and May 2018 as a part of Incinerator Gallery's With Seeing Eyes Exhibition featuring local and international artists exploring issues of accessibility and disability, exhibiting art that challenges the dominance that sight plays within art experiences.
Read Wall Street Journal’s story on Carmen Papalia’s ‘Noise Cane 1.0'.
"A long-distance yet real-time collaboration, Artifacts sees Nathan Liow (AUS) and Angus Tarnawsky (US) expose sonic phenomena associated with the vast physical network that enables the internet. The improvised work focuses on slowly evolving feedback conversation created by a live acoustic piano performance at West Space Gallery in Melbourne, broadcast immediately to NYC then returned and amplified through speakers and mixed with the existing performance.
Within this process, inaudible sounds become apparent and distortion begins to erode and decay what is heard. The internet itself leaves a unique signature and becomes an organic third party working alongside the artists."
Artifacts was launched as a part of Can we Please play the Internet? exhibition held at West Space Gallery in Melbourne, for Next Wave Arts Festival 2014. This unique exhibition showcased new work by artists who engage with the internet as a ubiquitous presence in projects unfolding both online and in the gallery.
Artifacts is available as a 7" lathe cut through In Context Music.
This work was made possible by the support of Next Wave Festival, Arts Victoria, Australia Council for the Arts, City of Melbourne and West Space Gallery, and the tireless efforts and visions of arts curator Rosemary Willink.
"Memories form drifting mental movies that blend together and bring heat to the face as you lean it against a bus window on a long nighttime ride. Nimble piano strokes and comps lift, dip, and flutter like angels, sending echoes bouncing off the walls. It’s a lonely feeling. It’s the opposite of, say, having a group of pianists play at the same time. Here, you take the playing of one, set it against itself, and watch as it spider-cracks outward like ice on the lake. Cold, crisp, and clinical; that’s how I like my context. Liow and Tarnawsky bend the corners of time effortlessly, turning a good idea into a great recording.
~ Grant Purdum, Tiny Mixed Tapes