FitkinWall - Lost
(GFR. GFCD090915. CD review by Mary James)
There is something almost human about moogs, they purr, growl and nag away at you. Their touchiness is legendary - a slight change in ambient temperature and their oscillators stop working. So they are entirely suited to a work entitled Lost, the latest work by FitkinWall, the partnership of pianist and composer Graham Fitkin and harpist Ruth Wall. Marry a moog with a harp and you have music that is ethereal, energising and often moving. The title Lost refers to feelings of isolation, loss of understanding or of faculty, and the embracing of such states. The cover art of a map shows the position of a bothy, a basic shelter from the elements, somewhere you would be glad to go if you were lost. From eerie start in Trace, you feel disoriented, "a thousand twangling instruments hum" in your ears, the insistent, relentless drive of the concert harp broken only by the briefest pauses which you imagine exist to untangle fingers and catch breath.
The work is an expanded version of a harp-only score originally written for aerial theatre company Ockham's Razor - titles such as Highwire and Fingertip provide reminders of its origins. The clarity of sound and the easy flow of the melodies disguise the often tricky time-signatures (different for each hand on the harp, with no pauses). It would be wrong to describe Fitkin's music as minimal (though some of his more classical pieces are), he makes complicated and intricate sound easy. Wire harp, concert harp and autoharp are overlaid with moog and bits of electronics. Don't ever again think of the harp as a costume-drama-medieval-manor-house kind of instrument. No! It's luminous, pastoral and urban at the same time under Wall's fingers, she pushes the instrument to its limits and Fitkin's compositions allow for a certain steeliness and discordance which makes the harp sound contemporary. Sometimes you feel you are going round in circles, just as you would if you were physically or mentally lost - the lovely melancholy melody of Bedsheets is picked up again in Highwire where Fitkin's signature pulsing rhythm perfectly capture the acrobatics of the title.
The sound is immaculate, but this is hardly surprising - it was mastered by Simon Heyworth of Tubular Bells.
Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter and artist manager. Twitter @maryleamington
Lost is released on November 6th