24 Frames - Scatter
Tim Brady; Bradyworks
ambiences magnetiques AM 206 CD www.timbrady.ca
24 Frames - Trance
Tim Brady; Martin Messier
ambiences magnetiques AM 203 CD-DVD www.timbrady.ca
Tim Brady’s most ambitious composition to date must surely be 24 Frames consisting of a series of 24 movements each of which he identifies as a “frame.” Adding up to three CDs and a DVD (AM 905), it amounts to well over two hours of sometime meditatively calm and at other times challenging and exhilarating music. While a soprano voice, baritone sax, bass clarinet, viola, bass trombone and percussion make appearances one at a time in substantial though supporting roles, the through-line here is Brady’s writing for electric guitar and his masterful virtuoso playing in every section of his sprawling opus.
Indeed the 8’53” section called “Scatter – Frame 1” could easily stand as a self-contained work. Featuring the nuanced vocalise of Karen Young, her vocal performance is so densely processed at times that it becomes a virtual choir. Yet Brady reminds us that this is a human voice first and foremost, by having vocalist Young imitate a wow-wow pedal effect acoustically about halfway in. It only lasts a moment but for me it is such deft and delicate touches which impress the most in 24 Frames. At the end of this section the guitar’s distant bell-like sonorities admirably support Young’s soft cooing.
Frame 2 is subtitled “In Almost Unison” and it’s an apt description of the relentless tempo guisto and metrically complex character of the joint duo of guitar and baritone sax, marvellously played by Jean-Marc Bouchard. Frame 3 on the other hand, featuring Lori Freedman’s dramatic bass clarinet, has many more contrasting angles and emotional facets to it.
Frame 4 – “Still” is a highlight, a lyrical, spacey and languid essay in viola long tones, chords and slow, surprisingly moody mid-20th century melodic passages. It’s underpinned by a lexicon of exposed delicate electric guitar effects: I heard reverb, precise string harmonics, thick gong-like chords, chorus effects and perhaps even pitch-shifted other-worldly echoes. This is a gorgeous, satisfying movement that I’ll be returning to repeatedly.
Frame 5 partners the electric guitar with bass trombone, in several sections juicily modulated with electronic effects. Indeed an outstanding aspect of this movement, as well as several others, is the astonishing range of the blend between the acoustic sounds of the instruments and their sounds electronically morphed.
The sonic shape-shifting continues in Frame 6 which introduces percussionist Catherine Meunier into the mix. She plays the vibraphone and afterward the marimba joined by Brady’s electric guitar, providing a welcome crisp contrast to several of the previous atmospheric sections, many of which did not posses a definable pulse. Here we have melodic lines, many founded on broken arpeggios, which sometimes interlock between instruments. At other moments the duo sounds in melodic and/or rhythmic unison, set in an increasingly complex metric and spectral framework. This first CD culminates in a satisfying crescendo supported by a sort of electric guitar trill stretto perhaps referencing heavy metal.
Reviewing such an immense, assured and accomplished work – and I’ve only touched on about a third of it – is truly an insurmountable challenge given the constraints of this review. I hope my listening notes have successfully reflected the scope of Brady’s fertile compositional imagination, and my own pleasure and enthusiasm for the music in his multi-CD project.