Music Reviews

Artist: Para
Title: Paraphon
Format: CD + Download
Label: Freifeld Tonträger
“Paraphon” is the third album from Para, a trio consisting of prepared piano, French horn and double bass. It was recorded live at the Kaleidophon festival in 2016, though the sonic quality is easily that of an expertly produced studio album. There’s a broadly improvised feel, that I might even label as “traditionally avantgarde” if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Each instrument gradually builds or wanes its performance either in parallel with, or counterpoint against, what the other two are doing- leaving some periods of near-silence (and some very lush low subbass tones) and some periods of cacophony and chaos.

Of the seven tracks, over half of them have titles that were totally indecipherable to my media player, so I’ll have to refer to some tracks by number rather than name. The opening track “Karpaten” has a short and almost scat-like spoken-word section towards the end (Greek I think but I’m a language novice so I’m not sure) which gives a nice twist in an almost-jazz direction as it develops. The scat style reappears to strong effect in the fifth track, in which the French horn commits to a very passable didgeridoo impression and, with the best will in the world, it starts sounding like the soundtrack to a brilliantly deranged spaghetti Western.

The sense of tension in third track “Aupa” derived from the relentless piano high note hammering gives it a more horror-like flavour that isn’t necessarily all that welcome or successful, as for me the arrangements work better when they’re more refined, such as in sixth track “Matrjoschka” which develops a very dark, breathy and alien second half, and the much more relaxed final track “Glut”.

It’s a sterling performance that must surely have been mesmerising to watch live. Over the course of 53 minutes it’s got a careful level of dynamism and progression that keeps you attached at all times. While a couple of tracks some to lose themselves somewhat in their own melée and the sinister tones just occasionally come across as insincere, overall it’s a bold musical work definitely worthy of attention.

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