Elision is an Australian performance group dedicated to performing challenging, unique new works. Five members of the ensemble took part in an evening concert in front of an intimate crowd at the Kevin Barry room in the National Concert Hall.
The coloured lights in the room take on a more eerie aspect as Benjamin Marks begins the first piece, ‘Paranoid Oneiroid’ for trombone and electronics by Ann Cleare. Beginning with more noise than notes, the piece moves through many special techniques, utilising the capabilities of the trombone to merge with the electronic sounds that move between seeming alienesque white noise or machine-like reverberations. There are brief moments when the trombone breaks into tuneful playing only to be subsumed once again by the electronic elements.
Mark swaps his tenor for an alto trombone, joined on stage by Tristram Williams on quarter-tone flugelhorn to perform ‘Aurora’ by Richard Barratt. Given the introduction that ‘Aurora’ is based on the constructs of Utopia found in Christian theological writings, the piece that follows is not what might be expected: a far cry from a utopian soundscape. The timbres of the instruments work well together, the performers always keeping in communication, yet seeming like creatures strangely unable to connect.
According to the composer, Luke Paulding’s piece ‘Where Dust is in their Mouths and Clay is their Food’ is an examination of vulnerability and exposure. The scraping and rasping percussion, performed by Peter Neville, add another layer to the music heard thus far. Sprinkling rice over the metal drums and later sending it flying around the room is both aurally and visually impressive. Even when the trio are playing in concert there is a sense of isolation and unease in the sorrowful calls and despairing wails.
Liza Lim’s composition ‘Sonorous Body’ began as part of the development of her opera The Navigator. The full range of the clarinet, played by Richard Haynes, is used superbly to create a broad musical landscape with swooping, majestic lines and contrasting slap tongue effects. Once again the breadth of talent within the ensemble is immediately discernable in this poignant performance.
The trio combination of piccolo trumpet, tenor trombone and bass clarinet is an exciting innovation. Timothy MacCormack’s technically based ‘Disfix’ separates the various elements of playing for each instrumentalist. The resultant frenzied explosions of sound combine into a schizophrenic unity, sounding like twenty instruments rather than just three and each contradicting the other. Ultimately, it is only the listener that is in danger of becoming overwhelmed.
Daryl Buckley finally joins the group as electric guitarist for Barrett’s ‘Codex IV’. From Haynes’s introduction emerged the piece as clicks, shifts, spluttering from spit valves and guitar tuning suddenly become music as comprehension dawns that they are part of the performance. Each player takes a turn as the soloist influencing the others, developing the piece into a cacophony of effects and ideas, constantly developing. The untested guitar, at times overpowering, ultimately led the rest of the ensemble to higher levels of creative madness. Highlights were the floods of water coming from Williams’s flugelhorn and Neville’s inventive percussion.
The Kevin Barry room in the National Concert Hall was the perfect setting for an intimate performance by five virtuosic musicians. With so much unequivocal talent in both the compositions and musical execution, Elision deserves to play in top performance spaces worldwide to sold out audiences. Hopefully word will spread of these fine players and they will return to a packed house in Dublin sometime soon.