Trichotomy The Gentle War Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Australian piano/drums/bass trio’s second album is a disc without a dull moment.

John Eyles 2011

What’s in a name? This Australian piano, bass and drums trio began life as Misinterprotato. Curiously, their website and Amazon still list The Gentle War under that group name. However, the threesome is now invariably known as Trichotomy, the name under which they toured the UK in 2010. The Gentle War is their second album on Naim, the follow-up to the well-received Variations.

Before abandoning the name issue, it is worth noting that Trichotomy is a fitting name for this trio, as it emphasizes the equal interdependence of its components. The three never sound like a standard piano trio, with bass and drums as a supporting rhythm section. Instead, all three contribute equally to the group’s music, with no obvious hierarchy of esteem.

Unfortunately, Trichotomy tend to be mentioned alongside trios like The Necks, EST and The Bad Plus. Such comparisons give an idea of Trichotomy’s class but not of their musical style. Increasingly, the group is developing a unique sound, based on that three-way participation. Sean Foran’s fluent piano playing is prominent, but just to focus on that would be to miss out on two-thirds of the group’s music.

The eight tracks on The Gentle War are all originals, six by Foran and two by drummer John Parker. The pieces contain considerable contrasts, balancing melody and rhythm, and blurring the boundary between composed music and improvisation. Tempos and energy levels vary dramatically from track to track, sometimes even within a single track.

Foran’s Chase sets the tone for much of the album. Very danceable, it has a catchy melody and a brisk tempo generated by Pat Marchisella’s articulate bass and Parker’s use of brushes and cymbals. By comparison, Blues for the Space is more sedate, placing greater emphasis on the piano. Subtle coloration from bass and drums help make it dramatic and effective.

The episodic title-track is just as dramatic, opening quietly and slowly building momentum. But, on a wonderfully unpredictable album, the biggest surprise comes from Parker’s Shut Up. Its heavier, riff-driven sound features rumbling bass and drums to the fore. An album without a dull moment!

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