Dr Stephen Tromans and Friends – ‘Duos & Remixes’

Dr Stephen Tromans and Friends – Duos & Remixes
(Bandcamp. Link below. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

The various lockdown periods in the last two years have clearly been extremely difficult for freelance musicians. However, the time away from the pressures of touring, recording and hustling for gigs has allowed space for new types of creativity. 

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In December 2020, the time of the deep winter lockdown, Steve Tromans came up with an extremely interesting and innovative idea to compensate for the lack of live gigs; he approached a number of friends asking them to send him a short recording for him to react to. 

The initial idea was that Tromans would record a reaction to the offerings on piano, but, as the project proceeded, he also started remixing some of the music sent instead. This raises the interesting philosophical question of whether a remix can be considered to be a different kind of duo.

The result is an album of thirty-six pieces which vary in length from two to five minutes, some are duos, others are remixes. The pieces are mostly instrumental, but there are also a number of spoken word pieces. 

At the launch concert for the album in January this year (*), five of the project’s participants formed a sextet with Tromans. The music was totally improvised with the musicians divided into pairs who improvised together reacting to what the other was doing, but gradually also to what the other four musicians were doing as well. The pairs changed in each of the five pieces. This took the improvising in a number of unexpected directions.

The album is one to dip into and enjoy at different times. There is a lot of variety and some really intriguing interactions across the 36 tracks. Not all are equally successful; I was initially puzzled by the way some of the spoken word pieces had been manipulated such that it is impossible to catch the words. However, perhaps the aim of these particular pieces was to transform the words into music rather than to focus on the actual words. 

Here are ten of the thirty-six tracks that give a flavour for the whole project:

Track 1 Adam Martin: focusses on a gnarly sound from Martin’s guitar.
Track 4 Jonathan Mayer: the manipulation of Mayer’s sitar sound creates a very distinctive and fascinating sound.
Track 10 Tymoteusz Jozwiak: quite a dramatic track with drums backed by atmospheric electronics. The sound of the drums is manipulated so that it sounds as though Jozwiak is constantly hitting the rims of the drums.
Track 12 Petri Ahjokoski: features guitar and a wonderful electronic sound.
Track 14 Jude Rees: an attractive folky song backed by atmospheric sounds; gradually the sound of the voice changes.
Track 19 Nick Prolix: a focus on the voice with the manipulation creating a strong and memorable sound.
Track 21  James Tartaglia: this sounds as though two saxophones are playing with the backing, creating a gentle rhythm.
Track 22 Suzie Purkis: a wordless vocal with intriguing clicking sounds.
Track 24 Jack Gorilla: presents his warm-up exercises which Tromans creates into sound.
Track 26 Heidi Schmidt: a folky vocal accompanied by a gentle drone; the sound of the voice changes over the track.

(*) Tony Dudley-Evans promoted the launch concert mentioned above, but – apart from giving some encouragement to record it had no direct role in the album.

LINK: Duos & Remixes on Bandcamp

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