Somnambule - Writing About Music

Fieldwork ~ Your Life Flashes

Three riders galloping abreast of each other, each fully aware of the other. All aiming for a single destination. Splash of cymbals like the dust raised by hooves. Their destination is reached 6 minutes 3 seconds after they set out. Not a race in a fusion sense of piling on the notes, but rather of a serious but joyful vigour in pursuit of something or - come to think of it – joy in the race itself, rather than the goal. ‘In Media Res’ makes for an invigorating beginning.

‘ Accumulated Gestures’ continues without pause for breath. It pushes and pulls and worries at a motif which conveys the impression of a movement of the hand, a toss of the head, each successive pattern piling up in the corner in a heap.

‘Generations’ is the first track to let up the pace a little. It’s a slow spooky number: rolling piano figures played on the left hand are echoed by tenor and cymbal work. The mournful undertones of this track conjure a sense of loss, perhaps for ancestors, perhaps for all passing.

Fieldwork are a trio comprising Elliot Humberto Kavee on drums, Aaron Stewart on tenor and Vijay Iyer on piano. The absence of a bass creates a particular tension, the lack of traditional resolution throws the three instruments into particular relief.

Rhythm is mutable, it seems to speed up and slow down at will. From moment to moment you don’t know what it’s going to do next. ‘Step Lively’ is particularly noteworthy in this respect: it does the opposite of what it says by running slowly but surely out of steam, exhausted. I can’t help but detect a likeable humour in this. On other pieces, each instrument appears to play catch with the rhythm - throwing it from one to the other to the other, sometimes it almost feels like it can be spied momentarily in mid-air.

Fieldwork evinces seriousness, displaying a music full of change and vigour. Serious, even perhaps a little forbidding, this music repays concentration. The mood of each piece gradually takes shape with each listen, like the eye will assemble and eventually make sense of an object seen through gauze.
Colin Buttimer
February 2003
Published by the BBC