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Peter Gregson
Patina Brian Coney , September 9th, 2021 09:15

The cellist-composer finds presence in absence for his fifth LP, finds Brian Coney

Whether interpreting Bach, scoring film and TV, or premiering works by composers including Scott Walker and Steve Reich, Peter Gregson has long grasped the value of presence in music. On his fifth full-length album, Patina, the Scottish cellist-composer flips that tradition by delving much deeper into it.

Exploring what Gregson refers to as the "presence of absence" in music - or seemingly audible non-things - Patina is the first album specifically recorded and designed for Dolby Atmos, an audio format that allows one to hear sound in a 360-degree bubble. On paper, it's Kubrickian to the nth degree. In real terms, it fully checks out: by asking what we hear - and where we hear it - when the melody is removed from a composition, Gregson offers up rare magic from interactive immersion.

Released in 2014, Lights in the Sky found Gregson wedding analogue synthesizers with cello and piano. It hit home, but on Patina, he ups the ante considerably. Brought to life by a host of condenser mics, pre-amps, and converters, there is a heavy emphasis here on how reverb can alter the essential shapes of sound stringed, wired or otherwise. The title track here is a textbook case. Above a sweeping string ensemble, surging front and centre, a rippling synth pattern roams free. Strain your ear and its journey to silence is a vivid, wondrous thing.

The power of Gregson’s meticulous compositions is how the myriad spectres of sound reckon on what has come before. From outright peak 'Over', and the fluttering arpeggios of 'Continuum', to the decaying dance of 'Sequence (Seven)', filling in the blanks is all part of the listening experience. By recognising that perceived absence makes us more intensely aware of our surroundings, and more speculative in our thinking, the reward - the real, soul-enhancing pay-off - is realising we can be contributors, too. With it, Gregson becomes a force.