Way Out West
Sound Lounge, August 12
Reviewed by John Shand
This was music as colour: huge splashes and explosive bursts of brightness. The sonic equivalent of Fauvism, if you like. The music of Melbourne's Way Out West has always been vibrant across its 16 years, but this current version of the band takes that to another level, the combination of instruments and players enabling massive shifts in highly energised colour.
Trumpeter Peter Knight's compositions play a huge part, too, often taking the listener on journeys through diverse sonic architecture in which different instrument combinations erupt in the foreground, only to melt away and be replaced by another, just as vivid.
An early work of his, Is the Moon Really That Far Away?, was transformed by this incarnation of the band, which features Satsuki Odamura's koto, an instrument tailor-made to render moonlight aural. Subsequently Paul Williamson floated a luminous tenor solo through transparent clouds of accompaniment.
Williamson's Blues for Jungster had Odamura extracting improbable primality from an instrument that is so often ethereal, while Ray Pereira's jagged percussion sliced open the slow-blues beat. Harper's own solo was monstrous: a lava-flow of tenor engulfing the song, then unwinding until it was like the lonely statement of the last man standing at 4am.
Pereira and drummer James McLean enjoyed a thrilling dialogue on Knight's Anthony Blaise, the former generating call-and-response motifs between his popping djembe and deeper congas, before that tenor erupted it again.
Howard Cairns' double bass was the thrumming foundation to it all, while guitarist Lucas Michailidis could thicken the grooves, produce stabbing solos, or add to the wafting atmospherics with his slide. When Knight wasn't busy with his round-toned trumpet and flugelhorn, he was hatching computer-generated electronic hazes (notably on The Birds), so that the music's backgrounds were in as constant states of flux as the foregrounds.
In a contrasting piece of programming the evening was opened by singer-guitarist Paul Mason, who with just an acoustic guitar produced his own array of intriguing tonal colours to buoy his breathy vocals.