Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tim Friese-Greene - 10 Sketches for Piano Trio

Tim Friese-Greene

10 Sketches for Piano Trio

As part architect of a large proportion of Talk Talk's body of work which included the groundbreaking Spirit of Eden as well as the grand consolidation of Laughing Stock, Friese-Greene's new album is an enticing prospect. The pot is further sweetened by the involvement of Phill Brown who engineered the aforementioned albums as well as former Talk Talk singer Mark Hollis's sole solo (sans TF-G) project.

While Hollis sought to further refine the latter day Talk Talk blueprint by using only acoustic instruments (The band's initial culling of sound sources had expelled all synthesisers after making Color of Spring) and upping the woodwind quotient, with songs that were thought through but not overworked, TF-G had taken a more maximalist approach in more pop and loop based compositions in his solo capacity as Heligoland until now.

The arrival of an album of 'sketches' with a basic lineup of piano, drums and bass hinted at something that may lean closer to Hollis's eponymous conclusion. While both at times resemble forms borne of improvisation, TF-G's is the altogether more 'jazzy' affair. This is due both to the absence of a more rock or folk orientated guitar presence that may create the necessary ambiguity of style as well to the piano chord voicing and phrasing employed. Described by TF-G as a series of improvised sketches where piano parts were then overlayed with bass and drums by himself using the hindsight of the initial form, these songs are pleasing for their immediacy and their brevity. It is really this compactness that severs their connection with the jazz idiom, not relying on any establishment and repetition of phrases or themes, and solos.

If anything I am reminded to a very stripped down acoustic version of Tortoise side project Isotope 217 who also appropriated jazz and funk styles in aid of their more structured post rock forms.

It is also this brevity that is perhaps this album's undoing to some degree. Without the necessary space and time for development and risk there is little life left in these pieces once the thought is completed. Much like the photo of TF-G in the liner notes showing him, back to the viewer, recording piano in a small makeshift studio space where he and his instrument are vying for space with assorted junk including a child's inflatable boat, the songs are at times too constricted by a simple set of parameters and a fairly singular goal.


  1. thank you! I think i'll buy it anyways, just because this guy worked on spirit of eden & Laughing stock...

  2. Pleasure Carl,
    That, and the fact that this album does contain some very beautiful moments are certainly reason enough...