You'll perhaps remember Colin Currie as the the first percussionist to reach the final of the BBC Young Musician competition. But that was some time ago, and since then Currie has established a reputation as a unique virtuoso not only thanks to his instrument(s), of course, but also his method: Currie is as happy drawing on his creative ability to improvise as he is in a more conventional (notated) environment.
Here, with Borrowed Time, Currie has collaborated with musicians such as Håkan Hardenberger, Sam Walton and Clive Driskill-Smith, to realise and record works inspired by electronics, cross-rhythmic gestures and, most important perhaps, spontaneity. Ostensibly, Dave Maric is listed as 'composer' – fittingly enough, it's impossible to clearly, and discretely, define composition, performance and improvisation with this music.
'Shapeshifter' is a standout track, an extremely impressive example of putting percussion to experimental use, creating complicated rhythms and, through their combination, teasing out structural references, too. Indeed, with its unison sections and its development of a simple but satisfying two-note pattern, the structure becomes apparent enough.
The opening work, 'Predicaments', is another of the album's highlights. Maric, on piano, adds subtle nuances with poignant chords beneath a responsive vibraphone. But the bombardment of sound(s) perhaps points to a broader problem: will the listener hear past the initially bewildering 'surface' of the music and be rewarded by repeated listens? The answer, categorically, is yes, if the listener bothers. This two-movement work draws on a swathe of instruments, but its two movements hold together excellently.
With its postminimalist tendencies, 'Deadlock', the second movement, begins with a turbulent piano rhythm and accented melodic line but ultimately shines another light on Currie's talent, that is, the exceptional virtuosity that first brought him to our attention. The movement engages the listener with its strident, polyrhythmic gestures. 'Lucid Intervals', the album's second work, features the intelligent playing of Hakan Hardenberger, bringing together trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion to impressive effect. The third part of the piece (tracklisted as such) is delightful for its tender expressivity: the collage of sound grows, organicially, as the vibraphone and sporadic triangle lines are added.
'Sense & Innocence' steps into new territory with its use of live and sampled percussion; unlike much electronic music, the transparency here successfully draws the listener in. That's not to say that some may be left confused by its overwhelming character. As nonsensical as it is to describe this album as transitory in style, you nonetheless get the feel with this track, as elsewhere, that, as it stands, the unyielding technical brilliance of Currie, Maric and guests precludes the chance of producing a defining, classic album. As a 'best of' album – best of the musicians' different soundworlds – it is still warmly recommended.
By Caroline Dromey