As a child, my wife Lisa was desperate to learn the piano. She was too young to understand how big an ask this was of her hard-working parents. Hilda and Stan were as generous as they could be with their two kids in those days. But a piano was no small thing, financially or otherwise.
Rather than crush young Lisa’s budding interest in music, they offered a keyboard-related compromise. How would she feel, they asked, about learning to play the accordion? My lovely, affable wife accepted the bargain, despite the fact that most available models were in fact larger than her. While I’ve never been lucky enough to hear her play, Lisa’s accordion sits in our backyard shed to this day. I still can’t imagine how she lifts it.
All of this is to say that I have a soft spot for the instrument most often associated with Cajun tunes and/or the polka.
International duo Lore has produced a striking new EP that features Stan and Hilda’s favourite piano substitute. Helsinki’s Hugh Sheehan performs on diatonic button accordion and electronics. Bristol’s Greg Sterland contributes a lively tenor saxophone performance.
“The composition/recording process for the EP involved spending time in the studio improvising, with the identity and form of the resultant three tracks emerging from the recordings of these sessions, which we would go on to further refine and sculpt,” wrote Sheehan in an email to me. “With regard to electronics, the record features no-input mixing with extensive analogue processing, custom-build music interfaces controlling several MaxMSP instruments and idiosyncratic studio/post-recording processes such as resampling and several stages of re-amping.”
The self-titled EP opens with the appropriately titled “Grind.” Sterland’s sax and Sheehan’s accordion dance around one another like small animals preparing for a fight.
More from Sheehan: “’Grind’ was borne of a shared obsession with the unique breath cycles of our instruments. The composition aims to highlight the friction and discourse between the two reed instruments, with the arrangement and recording processes specifically enacted so as to capture the minutiae of each player’s actions and sounds and the cumulative sonic dialogue of the instruments’ sonorities.”
Next is “Pierrots and Doves,” featuring a stunning vocal from Mirva Soininen, another Finnish artist. Imagine a more avant-garde version of Mary Margaret O’Hara in her heyday. That’s set against spoken word and more of Sterland’s handsome sax.
Finally, we get “Liminal,” featuring Polish cellist Joasia Cieslak. Sheehan told me the work is inspired by “I Am Sitting In a Room,” Alvin Lucier’s famous sound art piece.
“’Liminal,’ was the result of several fairly lengthy free improvisations, with Joasia on cello, Greg on sax and myself on no-input mixer. The resulting composition was borne of two particular improvisations, with minimal splicing/layering in post-production. After the live recording, I experimented extensively with a cyclical process of re-amping and recording, re-amping, then recording.”
I wrote last week about how exciting it is to hear electronics incorporated into improvisational jazz. Lore’s unique combination of electronics, saxophone and electronics – along with this EP’s two guests – has plenty to offer lovers of multiple genres.