CHRIS ABRAHAMS – Acoustic Piano / DX7.
MIKE COOPER – Lap Steel Guitar / Electronics.
LIVE AND INTERVIEW FOR ABC RADIO NATIONAL THE MUSIC SHOW –
First teamed up as a duo in Sydney in 2005 to record the c.d. “Oceanic Felling -Like” – released in 2007 on the Australian Room40 label (RM420) to critical acclaim (see reviews below). Their second album “Live In Sydney'” was recorded in april 2009 at a Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA) concert in the Sound Lounge of Sydney University and will be released on the Turkish improvised music label Re:Konstrukt in late 2009
CHRIS ABRAHAMS… was born in Oamaru, New Zealand but grew up in Sydney and is perhaps best known for his work in the minimalist trio THE NECKS. The Necks was formed in 1987 and has produced eight albums and touring extensively both in Australia and Europe to considerable critical acclaim. In ‘97 they composed the music for the Australian feature film “The Boys”, and in 2000 they composed the music for the three part ABC documentary series “In The Mind Of The Architect”.
Chris has been a very active musician for many years and first came to public attention with the formation of the Benders in the early eighties. During this time Chris released two solo piano albums “Piano”(1984) and “Walk” (1986). In the late eighties he teamed up with Melanie Oxley and this has been an ongoing partnership that has produced four albums thus far – “Resisting Calm” (1988), “Welcome To Violet” (1992), “Coal” (1994) and “Jerusalem Bay”(1997). They are currently working on a new release. He has also been a guest on many recording with numerous Australian bands such as The Triffids, The Laughing Clowns, The Apartments, Crow, The Church and Midnight Oil and The Whitlams. Chris released a third solo piano album “Glow” in 2001, followed in 2003 by “Streaming”, and “Thrown” in 2004.
He has collaborated, in both recording and performance, with many contemporary improvising musicians including, amongst many others, Burkhard Beins, Clayton Thomas, Clare Cooper, Anthony Pateras as well as Mike Cooper . He performs regularly in the improvising music scenes both in Australia and Europe.
LIVE IN SYDNEY CONCERT REVIEW – 2008
Abrahams opened the set with a single note, left to decay until all traces of its existence were gone – one wondered if it had simply been imagined, whether they had even begun at all. But they had, and this minimal offering primed us – after the hyperactivity that preceded them – for tuning our listening to the smallest details, the subtlest of shifts and gradations.
While billed as a guitarist, the UK’s Cooper is perhaps more accurately described for the purposes of this particular collaboration as a pedaller. His two guitars laying on the table before him, he would peel off notes with the purpose of then treating them through his pedals, a bank of different effects backmasking, warping and deforming the notes into all new contortions.
Abrahams was concentrating on the high end of the keyboard, conjuring memories of winter rain on window panes. It was mesmerising watching those long, agile fingers that never tire, never stumble, a spider whose each leg knows not what the other is doing, yet somehow gets where it needs to without tripping. Abrahams shows that so much can be said in the span of a single hand, and while there were hints of the trembling, looping runs that feature with The Necks, there was also enough of a deviation into other techniques that it was quite set apart.
A highlight of the evening appeared near the middle of the set when a single, fractured chord was incessantly rung out, dancing on the grave of its own dead air, building into something far greater than it should – and perhaps would in lesser hands.
Cooper and Abrahams were both droning away, a pulsing spark jumping back and forth between the two, when suddenly the guitar dropped out completely and Abrahams’s inexhaustible piano line held sway. He was remorselessly tapping each note into submission, making it bend under his will into whole new shapes and sounds.
Throughout the performance Abrahams held the anchor role, playing with patience and insight and a seeming sixth sense for where Cooper might be heading next. Having seen him many times with The Necks but also in other formats, playing Now Now shows and in other combinations, Abrahams always seems to lift whoever he is accompanying. Sometimes this means he carries them, at others they raise to his level.
Mike Cooper was more than a match, bringing half a century of guitar experience to the pairing. He was playing mostly with a slide, but not often sliding – using the metallic touch to excite the pedals into action. In a bright Hawaiian shirt, his sound was not all that far removed from the same isolated islands, but sometimes the clipped slides sent it into sitar territory, in terms of both sound and patterns – the bass notes from the piano taking the part of the tabla.
And then, as discretely and with as little fanfare as the set had begun, it was over. These two elder statesmen of improvisation, having shown how it can work and having explored a tiny yet sufficient corner of what they can do, were sated – their work here was done.
SIMA Sound Lounge: Chris Abrahams (piano), Mike Cooper (guitar/electronics), Sound Lounge. Seymour Centre, Sydney 04 April 2008.