Eventless Plot: Parallel Words

Friday 21 August 2020

Beats me how people find these things, but I’m glad that they do. Eventless Plot is Vasilis Liolios, Yiannis Tsirikoglou and Aris Giatas, a trio of musicians in Thessaloniki. The music they make can be hard to describe. It is typically referred to as ‘group composition’, a term that usually implies homogeneous improvisation or undifferentiated free-for-all, but that’s far from the case here. For starters, their newest release, Parallel Words, sees them working with a small ensemble of flute, clarinet and strings in addition to their own playing on instruments an electronics. This ensemble takes its lead from compositions jointly worked out by the trio; these compositional structures may, or may not, allow them certain degrees of freedom. Such strategies can often be highly reductive, but Eventless Plot work in a more idiosyncratic way, with intriguing results.

The title work had its material composed conventially at the piano and was then developed with instrumentation and electronics dividing the music between them into two independent strands. In its unhurried pace, the piece moves back and forth between tension and release as the strands – flute and piano versus strings, with electronic sounds thickening the plot – drift in and out of synchronisation, at times in conflic and at others in accord. The piece moves with an aleatory fluidity, while also creating a slow-motion contrapunctal call and response, each instrument in turn commenting on the others.

The opening work, Cosmographia, consists of a structure where the overall shape and individual parts were created to give rise to “common melodic slow shifting patterns and acoustic textures”. From one section to the next, each musician is allowed greater or lesser control to vary pacing and elaboration, with alternate tunings and extended techniques introduced both as variation and as material itself. The works on this disc fall into the “soft and slow” school of music but the playing on both these pieces, together with the imaginatively developed compositions, allows for a complexity of texture and detail to match the typically careful focus on timbre. Eventless Plot’s ‘group compositions’ guide the ensemble with a mercurial intelligence that is both human yet beyond individual subjectivity, quietly confounding expectations as each turn creates a new hybrid of sound.

That impersonal, third mind approach can be heard more explicitly in the final work, Conversion, which seems to be closer to some of the group’s previous work. The trio gently strike various percussion instruments and objects, each with contact microphones attached. The amplified vibrations are transformed into strange gong and marimba-like sounds, with bowed cymbals and electronic filtering producing continuous tones. These soft, sustained sounds are augmented and shaded by a viola, played by Stefanos Papadimitriou, who appears on all three pieces. The emphasis on exploration and discovery is at the forefront here, but that same tendency can be heard in the other pieces, applied to compositional principles.