UK label Slip continue their support for new emerging British composers with the debut release from Aaron Parker. First track “Warehouse” opens tensely with keening violin and plinking electronic rhythms, before ostinatos on muted piano and low strings and winds get the piece moving. From there on in, Parker leads us on a tour of a world constructed from a large number of loops, some electronic and others using acoustic instruments, some percussive and others formed of single pitched sounds or fragments of melody. Midway through, a big chugging riff enters on low strings and winds, surrounded by a swirling halo of sonic dust. The piece later drops to a sparser level with splashy broken arpeggios on vibraphone, before the huge, reverberant sound of a bow screeching across strings brings things to a close.
With its dense scattering of looping parts, “Warehouse” feels like being inside a giant hanging mobile, with each dangling object spinning on its own axis and the whole thing spiralling round like a galaxy of sound points. The aim is to fit all these parts together, allowing some to lead, some to whir away in the background, and others to crash and collide at just the right moment, and it’s something that Parker pulls off very well. The mixing of electronic and acoustic sound sources feels completely natural and unforced, with the timbres of the untuned percussion being particularly attractive.
The remainder of the album collects a number of electronic pieces, again mostly loop-based. The first couple are firmly rooted in retro electronica, with pitch wobbles, tape effects, and reverb saturating the warm synth lines. They also skitter along at a fair pace, though quieter moments of hazy drone sometimes appear. The third of this group introduces a strange, echoey cave of sounds, harking back to “Warehouse” with its densely packed orchestration. The album closer returns to retro electronics, with a big, distant sound juxtaposed with small close ones; this suddenly shifts into thumping, distorted bass, stuttering like a broken speaker, followed by curious dissonant plucked strings and a rising tide of noise.
My feeling is that Parker perhaps relies a little too much on loops in these pieces, and some of them go on for too long. Regardless, this is a solid debut outing from a promising new composer, joining the likes of Paul McGuire, Joe Snape, and Oliver Coates in Slip’s increasingly impressive showcase of talent. The artwork from Susie Whaites featuring tiny wireframe sculptures is also very nice. Now, where are the women composers Slip?