Anthony Pateras: Pseudacusis

Tuesday 3 August 2021

One of the most special gifts I received in lockdown last year was an early mix of Anthony Pateras’ Pseudacusis, and I resolved to say something about it here as soon as it was ready for release but then missed it. I only briefly touched on his humongous box set Collected Works Vol. II in passing last year, observing how his style has developed. While his early music, both composed and improvised, displayed a distinctive flavour of hyperactivity and relentless and unforced energy, his more recent work has consolidated this extroversion into music that is more focused and cogent, but thankfully not tamed. Even in some pieces that tended towards the minimal, he now makes bold gestures which retain their forcefulness without resorting to bravado or pyrotechnics. The increasingly assured style still leaves room for pieces which can digress, or dazzle, or throw the listener off-balance in ways that carry a stronger motivation than a simple need to fill space. This has resulted in some stunning large-scale works such as Decay of Logic from the last box.

Pseudacusis is another large work, an electroacoustic piece about fifty minutes long for seven live musicians and another seven on tape, with further electronic manipulations. It’s an ambitious work that becomes imposing through its hearing, absent of any stated extramusical pretensions. The pacing seems understandably generous at first, with repeated single piano notes and sustained tones over what sounds like a recording of a dawn chorus of birds, but it doesn’t take long for things to spiral beyond comforable stasis. A percussionist taps restlessly in the background, those birds sound more electronic than real, or perhaps they’re the string instruments, a tape deck jerks into life and soon the atmosphere has moved from twittering to ominous rumbling. The mood swings come regularly, sometimes sudden and sometimes insidious. They work with a cumulative effect, each adding a new twist to the affective character of the work and casting the previous mood into a more troubled context. I originally hadn’t realised that the piece is formally divided into seven sections and I think the piece’s dream logic works more effectively when heard in ignorance of the section breaks. Each part works as an extended block of sound, perceived at a microscopic level of continual movement and change, impressive in form and detail.

The playing heard here, between live acoustic musicians, taped musicians and electronics, is seamless. It’s remarkable here how the ensemble sounds as a protean electroacoustic whole, given that this is a live recording from the 2019 Sacrum Profanum Festival in Krak√≥w, with musicians who were mostly new to the piece. By the latter half of the work, you’re wondering how much of the frenzied, stuttering percussion solos are happening in front of the audience and whether you hallucinated Pateras playing some cocktail lounge jazz rhapsody in amongst it all. Yeah it’s out now. Has been for some time.