May 24, 2024

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Evan Parker, Peter Evans and Sam Pluta rocket to the stratosphere at The Vortex: Video

Returning to the place of their 2012 debut performance and live recording, Rocket Science took the audience on a wild and captivating journey at the Vortex on Friday. Mavericks of their instruments, saxophonist Evan Parker, trumpeter Peter Evans and electronics musician Sam Pluta (this time performing without pianist Craig Taborn) are remarkable in their progressive approach to testing and expanding the limits of musical convention. 

The concert was an explosion of radical sound and sonic manipulation: voluminous, spatial passages juxtaposed ferocious explorations of range, dynamic and timbre with delicate melody and well-placed squeaks, fluttering, slapping, breathing and whistling.

This was decidedly free music, but the trio were wonderfully simpatico, entering new movements and ideas with collective precision. Sensations were captured in split seconds, as textural and melodic concepts developed, overlapped and bounced between players. Pluta’s electronic improvisation added a mind-bending dimension to the concert. At moments it was fierce and pointed; at more subtle times it was impossible to know where the acoustic ended and electronic began. These magic moments of real-time manipulation allowed Parker to dance and interweave with his own sounds, and one cacophonous passage evoked sensations of auditory illusions, rather than live electro-acoustic creation. Peter Evans’ performance was particularly spellbinding. He captivated the eyes and ears as he appeared to transcend the realms of his instrument, transforming it from roaring motorbike to the delicate source of a sweetly whistled melody. Spanning range, tone, timbre and emotion he abandoned any preconceptions of conventional trumpet playing. Evans’ sounds are so precise and refined that his ‘extended technique’ no longer seems unusual, but a logical means of expressive communication.

Of course, this boundary-pushing isn’t to everyone’s taste, and such sonic unorthodoxy can be a challenge to the more squeamish listener. The audience at The Vortex, though, appeared enthralled by the journey, from frantic fervour to floating through a space strewn with crunchy electronic meteoroids. By the end my heart was racing along with the on-stage energy. The beauty of these fresh, free sounds is that they break through the rules and confinements of habitual listening experiences. These are exciting (and potentially uncomfortable) because they are otherwise unexpressed: because they go beyond familiar vocabulary. At the end of Rocket Science’s set, the friend beside me glanced at the pen and paper grasped between my fingers, and joked: “Did you get all that down?” No. Not at all.

– Celeste Cantor-Stephens;


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