For composer and sound artist Yair Elazar Glotman, Compound is not only a continuation but a courageous expansion, moving with quite a big step on from 2015’s Etudes while adding much more depth in sound design. Back then, Glotman’s contrabass ran solo, but this time around the sound has widened considerably to incorporate pianist Rieko Okuda and percussionist Marcello Silvio Busato. As a trio, there are plenty of opportunities to add other, interesting textures, and Compound is quick to take full advantage of that. Jangling piano keys at first shudder from one note to the next, shuffling like a zombie with an insatiable appetite for brains, either experiencing ill health or wasted in utter drunkenness. The opening grooves uncoil the shrill shaking of a deadly rattlesnake, the percussion like an ominous forewarning to the unwary.
Cymbals rattle and quiver in an almost muted way, staying in the shadows at their own choosing and keeping things confined instead of releasing their full potential, as if expectant, waiting for something. Compound revolves around the complete fragmentation and subsequent breakdown of standardised structure, rebuilding things in its own image while the harmony shatters like a pane of glass. This leads to a kind of rhythmic wreckage, led by the frenzied wanderings of the contrabass, an experimental approach where the tiny glints of broken glass reflect a thousand possibilities, creating rhythmic offshoots and new roots. But it’s intoxicating rather than confusing. The piano eventually starts to flourish, gushing like a waterfall or a sudden downpour of rain, but it doesn’t have a set phrase in mind, and nor does it need one. After the music’s cramped beginning, this sudden release is an outpouring of mercy after an arid decade. Improvisation guides the music like a hand in the dark, lying at the heart of the music. The same is true of repetition, but Compound never becomes stale or stuck in the mud. Thanks to the improvised nature of the two long-form pieces, we as listeners are never quite sure where we’re going to go next, and to that extent it’s definitely an adventure.
Glotman gave the musicians the chance to hone in on the minuscule details of their instruments. As such, rhythms emerge into the light as the old order crumbles, clashing with the wild, discordant cries of a just-born child, and to a recently-christened father, that’s the sweetest sound in the world; heavenly music. The piano’s concentrated melodic spells disintegrate, until it flutters like a trapped butterfly. The repetitions create patterns which then knock into other sequences and sounds, creating a denser atmosphere within, seesawing between true equilibrium and the confused dialect of disorder.
Speedy trills hop between notes a semitone apart, creating an unending tension within the musical language. When the other two instruments drop out, the tension notches up until the notes begin to ache, desperately clawing at the ground for some kind of resolution. Through all of this, Compound resolutely continues on, balancing playful improvisation with serious musicianship.