Review: Adam McCartney – OEK

“The name [OEK] is a reference to the Tuvan word for yurt, or quite simply to the idea of home.”

When I contemplate how “home” might be articulated through music, my mind lazily skips straight to held major keys. Unambiguously positive, reassuringly consistent sounds. A refuge from the unmediated turbulence of the world outside. As I listen to OEK, I start to question the naivety of this. In fact, home has hosted some of the most intimate and complicated experience of my life, offering not just a hideaway in which I can feel protected, but also a safe place for me to unspool and become vulnerable, holding firm as my uncertainties and anxieties come forth and slosh against the walls. The six pieces on OEK, formed through the congealment of saxophones, accordion and harmonium are like clouds: aloft and ambiguously shaped, drifting between forms through a movement that is both deliberate and gracefully unforced. These chords are suspended. Above distinct harmonic and emotional categorisation, above the pulse of passing time.

Ultimately I hear not instruments, but air pressure ­– frequencies beating against eachother, the rasp of harmonium swallowed by the muffled hum of the tenor saxophone, the accordion melting through the margins between margins, tones inseparably fused together, frictions throbbing in play and agitation. How many players are there here? Potentially a dozen, based on the endless intersections of harmonics. Potentially one, given that I can seldom distinguish the rippling edge of one texture from the quivering lip of another. Save for the occasional clack of instrument buttons and valves I can’t hear the mechanics of creation: the cycles of saxophone players in respiration, nor the seams of directional change as the bellow-driven instruments are sent back and forth. I can’t tell whether a particular chord is a depiction of nervous melancholy or quiet optimism; a single note tilts, and my perspective undergoes drastic change. Every time I try to catch my sentiments and fix them, the cloud wafts out of the gaps between my fingers. Funny how such compositions, whose drones linger long enough for me to examine them intently, should forever defy my desire to know them better.

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