Somnambule - Writing About Music

Triosk ~ Moment Returns

Moment Returns is Triosk’s first release, not counting ‘1+3+1’ their recent collaboration with the Dutch electronica artist, Jan Jelinek. That work conveyed a strong sense of fine-grained distillation verging on essentialism. The hand of Jelinek was clearly recognisable in this, but without any corroborative evidence Triosk’s input was less easy to identify. Moment Returns supplies the missing data and confirms that the group are making an intriguing addition to the small, but growing band of improvisors interested in the possibilities proffered by digital technologies.

What makes this release particularly interesting is Triosk’s musical engagement with the heritage of electronica as much, if not more so, than with the legacy of jazz. Having said that, if Triosk had only window-dressed their music with the sort of scratchy glitch explored by labels such as Mille Plateaux and ~scape, Moment Returns would be a far less interesting proposition. Instead they are also clearly intent on navigating the structures of contemporary electronic music and exploring how these can be utilised as flexible formats for improvising. It’s notable that at the core of Triosk is a traditional jazz trio format comprising drummer, bass player and pianist (although in case this review is in danger of overemphasising the trio’s acoustic instrumentation, it should be noted that each player is also credited with contributing loops and Klumpes also plays Rhodes and synths). However, it would be difficult to find any common ground if Triosk were to be compared to legendary forebears such as the jazz trios of Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk. Both Nichols and Monk were stylistic innovators, but their rhythm sections – however stellar – fulfilled more traditional supporting roles. Triosk’s members make equal contributions to their music. The example of Bill Evans’ trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian may be more relevant because of that group’s relative democracy. Ultimately though the most relevant precedent in jazz for Moment Returns is Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight which is as much tone poem or sonic mise en scène as it is a traditional piece of jazz extemporisation.

Triosk’s modus operandi may also prompt the listener to question what is left once a jazz group ceases improvising in a traditional melodic/chordal way. The answer may best be addressed by describing the music the trio produce. Pianist Adrian Klumpes seldom if ever plays a traditional solo, instead he explores the role of rhythmaker and creator of tonescapes alongside his colleagues, drummer Laurence Pike and bass player Ben ‘Donny’ Waples. Klumpes may create a repetitive chordal patterns or Walpes introduce a melodic figure that will be essayed with relatively little thematic development. A chord may not be a first step towards improvisation, but instead it is just as likely to be the cornerstone for a repetitive rhythm. Any of these elements are just as likely to be prefigured by Waples or Pike as they might be led by Klumpes. Laurence Pike’s rhythms are frequently the focus of attention for their slippery groove or their gentle support. The resulting music initially conveys the sense of being produced by a ‘headless’ trio whose soloist has been excised in a fit of radical editing. Once this state of affairs is recognised and assimilated, however, it becomes possible to relax sand explore the musical landscape. Texturally, as touched on above, Moment Returns benefits from the crunches, glitches and tripping footfalls so extensively explored by recent generations of laptop-borne explorers. These elements successfully serve as substitute for the musical variety of traditional improvisation. It should be noted that some of these tracks (e.g. Love Chariot, Re-ignite) are recognisable from Triosk's earlier ‘1+3+1’.

Moment Returns. What moment, what return? Perhaps a particular moment whose time, Triosk believes, has come again. Whether it’s a real time, generally recognised period is questionable. After listening to these soundscapes it seems more likely that the title is a reference to an agglomeration of possibilities: Joe Meek’s production on Telstar, Telex and the earlier solo work of Marc Moulin, the Jimmy Giuffre 3, Kirk DeGiorgio’s electronica/jazz hybrids as well as a slew of contemporary glitch-oriented producers. There are even occasional hints of the Modern Jazz Quartet courtesy of the vibes played frequently by Klumpes which contribute a singular sense of nostalgic resonance, a connection to decades long gone. These and many other influences find their place in the warp and weft of this album. It will be very interesting indeed to see whether Triosk are able to expand the territorial borders delineated here. In the meantime Moment Returns proves to be essential and rewarding listening for anyone interested in the interzone between electronica and jazz.
Colin Buttimer
August 2004
Published by Milkfactory