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Laurence Pike
Holy Spring Tom Bolton , May 22nd, 2019 09:11

Whether solo, as here, or with his group Szun Waves or in his many collaborations with the likes of Liars and Bill Callahan, Laurence Pike is a percussionist of rare skill and broad range, finds Tom Bolton

Australian percussionist Laurence Pike is the thread that connects Liars to Bill Callahan via his other group, Szun Waves. He is an exceptional collaborator in demand for his ability to play in the spaces between genres, making categories seem strange illusions. His solo work is a marvel, radiating the absolute confidence of a man in command of his instruments and making very difficult things seems inevitable. The title track from his acclaimed 2018 album Distant Early Warning is a very good example, a quiet storm of drums rolling in like weather.

New release Holy Spring is a ritual record of nine tracks, deliberately and carefully structured to release the sounds of the beyond. The sound on this record is more restrained, at least on the surface, with more room around the constantly shifting rhythms. With Pike, that means more chances to be sucked in by the subtlety of his playing.

There are relatively few lead, solo percussionists because it is difficult to deliver the variety and the texture required to keep the listener engaged. No such problem here. On tracks such as ‘Drum Chant’, Pike places his irresistible live playing alongside sampled vocals and flutes, upending the standard track hierarchy. There are hints of Jon Hassell in the result, an immersive soundscape channelling close-pressed, chanting bodies and a powerful, layered evocation. All the tracks on Holy Spring have a ritual titles, from ‘Mystic Circles’ to ‘Taught by Spirits’, the former building anticipation with humming electronics and an unsettling rattle of tom toms, the latter a parade of bell-ringing, rim-shooting, block-hammering manifestations.

Throughout, Pike plays with a variety that is completely engrossing. He creates a hyper-aware universe of constant, new, undefinable sound, that only he could make. But it belongs to all of us. He expresses himself through performance with a commitment that goes far beyond energy and will. He channels the multiple layers of his skill and experience to give us a music that sounds inevitable, but belies its complexity. Holy Spring is a mature and enthralling work that gives us real ritual. Ceremonies taken seriously that generate real power.

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