Flock is the second release from Great Waitress, their follow-up to Lucid which was released in 2011 on the Australian Splitrec label. Great Waitress consists of Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas plus the Australian duo of Laura Altman on clarinet and Monica Brooks on accordion. Like its predecessor, Flockwas recorded in Australia. Compared to the five studio-recorded tracks on Lucid, where the twenty-minute title track stood out for its sense of drama, Flockcontains just two tracks, one twenty-seven minutes long, the other ten. Both are dramatic and atmospheric, having been recorded live at two different churches in Sydney in January and February 2013.
From the start of the longer opening track, “Rite”, Flock is recognisably that from Great Waitress, as their sound from before remains here. Frequently, the sounds produced by the threesome are not immediately identifiable as originating from piano, clarinet or accordion, many of them having more in common with electronically-generated tones. Of the three instruments, Mayas’s piano is identifiable most often, as she adopts her trademark individual playing methods which extract sounds from every part of her instrument, inside and out, including striking the frame to produce characteristic bell-like chimes. As before, she is the dominant player, giving the trio its distinctive sound. In the soundscape produced by the three, Atman’s clarinet comes a close second to the piano, repeatedly producing sustained single notes that ring out and command attention. On “Rite”, the accordion is less evident, maybe being masked by the other two, but on the second track, “Sownder”, Brooks comes into her own and the accordion sets the tone from the start.
However, this is not a competition between the three players for the listeners’ attention but a three-way collective enterprise. The music they produce is the sum total of all their contributions; at any moment the input from any of them can significantly alter its course or reshape it. The end results are the consequence of the entire process we hear at work, not of some pre-determined plan. At times the music they arrive at has the angular, jangling qualities of the incidental music to a foreign-language horror movie, but soon enough it can morph into something more laid back and chilled out. The trio do not seem to have planned to deliberately break or bend rules but, instead, to have chosen to follow their instincts, thus inventing their own rules with no obvious antecedents. Fortunately, the only rule they consistently obey is to constantly listen to one another and react appropriately... But what the hell — it works!
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