Meridian are the trio of Tim Feeney, N. Hennies, and Greg Stuart, percussionists all, and throughout their new album “Tuyeres” one is never in any doubt that the group is all about making surfaces vibrate in one way or another. While all three are talented composers, this record has something of an improvisatory feel, though the distinction between the two seems increasingly blurry these days. It’s very easy to imagine, while listening, the physical actions of producing the album’s sounds, tracing the feedback loop between invisible acoustic waves, work of hands and limbs, and concentration of thought (again: in practice these distinctions aren’t so clear-cut). How intrinsic such imaginings are to the act of listening is perhaps a matter for debate.
Most of the focus across these three tracks is on making interesting timbres, frequently sustaining a sound for a fair amount of time in order to allow all its nuances to rise to the surface. These sounds are rarely static, though: they vibrate, rumble, and roil. Often the timbres come about through some clever teamwork, such as when a snare roll is held at just the right volume so that it melds into a sound layered on top of it, giving a bumpy texture to what would otherwise have been a smooth tone. Things are never overly dramatic or showy, but neither is there an over-reliance on silence or quiet dynamics to frame the sounds or induce affect: sonic objects come thick and fast, with a weight and solidity behind them regardless of whether they result from striking, bowing, scraping, rubbing, or scrunching a surface.
Given how easy it would have been for performers as versatile as these to bring in other sound sources to expand the range of potential tonalities and timbres, the decision to focus solely on untuned percussion is an interesting one, and it gives the album a directness that’s refreshing to hear. While there’s never any question of a lack of control to the proceedings, the trio are never shy of ramping up the energy and making some noise — and a fine noise it is, too.