Piano Circus featuring Bill Bruford – Skin and Wire
(Summerfold Records BBSF 023CD. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Pianocircus -– pianists David Appleton, Adam Caird, Kate Halsall and Semra Kurutaç – are celebrated for their interpretations of systems music (the group’s debut performance, in 1989 when it was a sextet, was of Steve Reich’s ‘Six Pianos’), and on this album, a collaboration with the great boundary-scorning drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Julian Crampton, they address nine pieces by contemporary classical composer Colin Riley.
The album’s title, Skin and Wire, aptly points up the music’s physical source; as with, say, gamelan or the percussion group the Dhol Foundation, Riley’s compositions are as much ‘about’ the various sounds made by the instruments involved, whether produced by felt-covered hammers on tense wire, or wooden sticks on metal cymbals and skin, as they are ‘about’ melody or rhythm.
Bruford’s extraordinary variety of percussion sounds draw freely on his trademark openness to all styles of music from jazz and prog rock to electronica, and anyone who appreciates his work with Earthworks or the Bruford-Borstlap Duo will find much to enjoy here, but it is the four pianists, whether in thunderously climactic or tinklingly delicate mode (and most places in between), who immediately grab the attention throughout this absorbing set of intriguingly varied Riley pieces – a recent reviewer’s comparison of them with the Red Arrows is by no means fanciful.