Review: Instrumental



Union Chapel Studio
Date:
20th March 2003

Repertoire:
60 Buddhas (Catherine Browning)
Lachrymosa (Brian Wright)
Duno (Andy Nice)
Forever (P & P Hartnoll, arr. Sally Ward)
Spacefish (Joby Talbot)
Smokebelch (Sabres of Paradise, arr. C. Browning)
Harp (C. Browning)
Bathtime (P & P Hartnoll)
Piano (C. Browning)
The Great Sound of Letting Go (Moodswings, arr. Jason Hazeley)

Instrumental:
Catherine Browning (Violin)
Brian Wright (Violin)
Sally Ward (Viola)
Andy Nice (Cello)
Andy Waterworth (Bass)

Think Steve Martland meets ambient club land and you're somewhere on the way to defining this string quintet. As an ensemble very much focused on re-inventing dance music for a classical ensemble, it's no great surprise that their collaborations with other artists/composers have stepped into the dance arena. Having debuted here with material from their first album Acoustek, Instrumental returned to Union Chapel armed with new tracks and commissioned works from the likes of Orbital and Joby Talbot. Whereas Acoustek was primarily an album featuring arrangements of existing composers' works, Instrumental's second offering is made up of the quintet's own compositional creations over the last year.

The night opened with Catherine Browning's "60 Buddhas". John Adrian's visuals served as the main focal point, as the sounds of Instrumental washed over the audience minus the quintet's presence on stage. The second track of the set (Lachrymosa) was based around a poignant violin line (Brain Wright) that easily commanded the listeners' attention over a simple bass and cello accompaniment. By the time "Duno" was underway, Instrumental were fully assembled on stage and producing an energy driven performance. Effects and sound design were used throughout many of the tracks, enhancing the dance element of the quintet's style.

Joby Talbot's "Spacefish" was inspired by a photograph of "some curious carp apparently floating in mid-air" taken by his wife at London Aquarium. Guesses can only be made as to what kind of expression the fish were wearing, but if the pace of this work was anything to go by, they may have needed to come up for air. The piece worked up into a relentless frenzy with jarring rhythms and a minimalist approach towards the motif that featured throughout. In stark contrast "Bathtime" stood out as a comical little number courtesy of the Orbital brothers. The bellowing English charm of this track snuck between sea shanty and nursery rhyme, with Andy Waterworth on bass conjuring up a quirky sense of pomp and merriment. Tracks such as "Harp" didn't always have enough sense of definition or variance to keep the listener hooked, but the overall impression of the quintet was a tight, rhythmically driven ensemble.

As Instrumental encored with material from Acoustek, a cheerful surge of recognition emanated from the audience - evidently as appreciative of old material as they were of the new.

- Helenka Bednar




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