I can sometimes hear my cat scampering around the living room as I lay in bed on weekends, as an over-active imagination and a night’s worth of potential energy collide in jolts of play; sudden surges of limbs tumbling over the wooden floor, chasing the phantom mice that flash from behind the sofa. I hear the same in Sprang – in “Rocks” for example, where the jangle of xylophonic trousers dons jelly legs that spasm in shocks of excitement – and even the specks of quiet still throb with playful urgency, painting the moments where hallucinatory prey reshapes and muscles coil in preparation for another strike. Thielemans is often childishly impulsive, using the staccato of mallets to channel the more sudden, juvenile tendencies that come quicker than maturity and finesse can supress: glass rolling like an upturned turtle on “Afternoon”, a baby slapping a timpani cot mobile on “To Rising Sun”. “Ode to Oxeley” is perhaps a personal favourite, and reminds me of my own hopeless attempts to tiptoe through a cluttered room in the dark, knocking over all manner of boxes and metal objects.
Obviously, this only heightens the impact of Thielemans’ sudden snaps into acute concentration, where his stumbles of ineptitude are swiftly revealed as theatre. The flurry of knocks and chinks on “Tptptptp” verge on the mechanical; a robot percussionist playing the kitchen table on rapid fire, flicking between the damp convulsion of tablecloth to the stifled chime of a half-full champagne glass. Meanwhile, his fingers (gloved, maybe?) tap with delicate precision on the glass of “post soldiers’ hymn”, conjuring gorgeous crystalline hums through a meditative, almost massaging continuum of impact. Here, my amusement at Sprang’s clumsy steps shifts into an appreciation of pure sonorosity – even at its most wonderfully care-free, the record remains an exercise in sonic magnification and deep, deep listening.