Review: Gabriel Profokiev + Peter Gregson – Cello Multitracks

Cello Multitracks is both a merge of classical music and contemporary electronic dance, and a reconnection of classical dance music with its original, contemporarily aware aesthetic. According to composer Gabriel Profokiev, “Classical music has a long history of using dance forms that are popular at the time; a very exciting approach that has been largely neglected recently”. Approaching this neglect head-on, Profokiev has worked with cellist Peter Gregson on four pieces that intertwine classical instrumentation with the traits of, amongst others, two of dance music’s most prominent post-millennial subgenres: grime and rave.

But both composer and player have avoided forcefully tacking one onto the other; in fact, the line between classical and dance are fluid and often entirely ambiguous. On “Tuff Strum”, 4/4 grooves are slapped straight onto the cello neck between pizzicato bursts that jut out at all angles, dodging the dissonant swoops of bowed strings that embed contemporary classical dissonance into the funk. Yet opener “Outta Pulsor” contains rhythm to a more liberal and abstract form of movement, placing abrupt staccato and seasick drones alongside eachother to create a rather dizzying modern dance accompaniment. One aspect of dance that the duo don’t embrace is the synthesisation of texture; rather, it chooses to pit the cello in a stark contrast with the sterile electronic blocks from which much of its compositional influence derives. Instead, Profokiev leaves it up to the album’s nine remixes (courtesy of Tim Exile and DJ Spooky, amongst others) to make the leap into more explicit references to dance’s tendency for timbre-warping and programmed beats.

Perhaps the most charming reference to today’s dance music is the way in which the music has been designed for performance, with just one live player and “an ensemble of eight loudspeakers”. Just as modern electronic musicians set entire backing tracks into motion with the click of a laptop button, Gregson is left jamming with his past self in various forms, opting away from live collaboration to present himself as the sole constructor of the album’s sonic material.