Raw and eclectic sounds in ELISION ensemble’s first concert at Sydney’s Carriageworks.

Carriageworks, Sydney

March 18, 2014

ELISION ensemble has gained an international reputation for performing the more daring and extreme forms of new music out there, and this concert at Sydney’s Carriageworks was no exception.

The evening saw numerous unconventional objects, including CDs used as trumpet mutes, bottles and squeaky toys pressed into service to create its unconventional sonic palette. The works themselves ranged from the soft, slurpy and fluttery to loud and often violent rasping and gasping.

Attending a concert at Carriageworks is part of the experience. The converted railyard buildings are all concrete and metal – quietly imposing their modern message in a space that was perfect for the cutting-edge contemporary specimens on ELISION’s program.

The evening began with two works by Boston-based composer Timothy McCormack, whose focus on the frequently uncomfortable physicality of sound pushed the performers to the brink. Peter Veale was particularly engaging with his virtuosic struggle on the oboe and expert multiphonics in the trio with violin and percussion. Benjamin Marks’s cantankerous trombone solo was also well handled in its daring range and often-absurdist gestures.

Australian Liza Lim’s ehwaz followed, and was similarly demanding of the performers. Tristram Williams managed the uncomfortable rawness and frantic energy of the trumpet part well, accompanied by Peter Neville’s cool and deftly controlled percussion.

Aaron Cassidy’s works offered a refreshing change through their more variegated use of colour. Peter Veale shone again in the one-minute athletic solo, memento/memorial, while Cassidy’s second work brought most of the ensemble onto the stage for a compelling, timbrally eclectic feast in And the scream, Bacon’s scream led by conductor Carl Rosman.

Following the interval, the evening took another turn, with ymrehanne krestos, a trio for flugelhorn, alto trombone and percussion by UK-based composer, Matthew Sargeant. The relentlessly busy monotony of the brass writing allowed Neville’s striking percussion to come through the hero.

Richard Barrett’s duet for bass flute and bass recorder, Adocentyn, was the soft, delicate contrast that the concert needed, and was an absolute standout, if not for its enchanting sonic melding of these two unlikely instruments, then for the compelling rapport between flautist Paula Rae and recorder player Genevieve Lacey.

The concert ended with an organised improvisation by Barrett, again calling on most of the ensemble, including Artistic Director Daryl Buckley on electric lap-steel guitar. An apt end to the concert, then, summarising the impossibly diverse sound world of the evening with a complex, pointillistic landscape that ranged from loud and grotesque shrieks to extremely soft blips and scratches. The ensemble presented a profoundly unified sense of gesture and intention.

With this highly visceral and diverse program, ELISION continues to cement its reputation as an ensemble of incredible range, virtuosity and vision.

ELISION are performing at Carriageworks again on Wednesday March 19.

Andrew Aronowicz is the 2013 AYO Music Presentation Fellow.