Review: Tomas Gris – Clarifications Of The Concept Of Object

Rather than bring to a mind a more familiar collaborative setup – with musicians either arranged facing eachother, or all projecting outward toward their audience – Clarifications Of The Concept Of Object evokes a sense of being directly imposed upon as an individual, and being communicated to as an audience of one. Everything is up close, and had the album occupied physical space rather than imaginary headspace, one would no doubt have to duck and weave to avoid being struck by a teetering cymbal, the bell of a swooping clarinet, or one of the album’s odds-and-ends objects (which sound like cellophane, squeaky polystyrene and other flimsy, clanky materials). The listener is surrounded by sound, exposed to all sorts of timbral micro-detail as a result. Lips smack prior to a hollow wheeze of sax, while tom drum skins are stifled with the soft palms of hands, forbidden to resonate and cutting abruptly into a premature silence.

It’s a “quiet” album, retaining an unsteady balance between tension and release, presence and absence. Dead air is left to linger for seconds at a time, before the hurried clicks and snaps of cassette desk come clattering in as though overcome by an impatient instinct to fill the audio void. What helps Clarifications… retain interest throughout is the way in which new sounds are tricked into the picture – be it an alternate playing technique or a new object/instrument altogether – and within the context of such intricacy and minute detail, the impact of the unfamiliar is startling. While Gris takes the opportunity to tease listener expectation and launch a few surprises, there’s a sense that he could have pushed this aspect even further, as nothing beats those moments at which the listener expectation is upturned and suddenly left to wrestle with an unrecognisable sound.