Joe Talia is probably best known around Melbourne as the extremely accomplished drummer of post-rock/prog-pop big band City City City, a fact that isn?t particularly helpful in describing his solo debut ?in/exterior?, recently released on his own Holding Pattern label. I first discovered there was something dark brewing in Joe?s Studio in the warm-up jam at a City City City show last year. Strange, rumbling concrete sounds were gliding over the top of the more conventional tones and for the first five minutes I was sure that DJ must have made the perverse and anarchic decision to inject some Xenakis or Dumitrescu into the mix. I was eventually impressed to realise they were Joe?s own passages of grinding concrete sounds and electronics and a solo show I caught later in the year, featuring some mean bowed cymbal through fuzz pedal and digital electronics work confirmed my high regard for Talia?s sinister brand of old-school sonic experiment.
Thankfully this release does his live appearance justice and more. ?in/exterior? is a four part suite of well-recorded and intelligent musique concrete compositions that draws its basic compositional and dynamic vocabulary from 60s and 70s concrete and electronic music whilst managing to find an original and personal voice. The sounds are mainly sourced from electronics and innumerable forms of percussion, from bowed gongs and deep, resonant tom hits to crackling and scattered small sounds. That said, some of the record?s best moments come from the occasional foray into ?concrete? sounds and the way Talia utilises these in conjunction with his instrumental and electronic vocabulary: the running water of the title track that fades into tinkling percussion in a manner reminiscent of the great rain into static fade of Parmegiani?s ?De Natura Sonorum? and the layered recordings of distant traffic with which the final track closes are both highlights.
Although his sound sources are superb enough to retain interest even within loose structures (something demonstrated in his excellent, more improvisational live shows), Talia?s work truly shines in its composition. The individual recordings that have been edited to together to create ?in/exterior? often sound improvised but, as in fellow Australian percussion-electronics wizard Will Gutherie?s releases, their dynamic structure is completely reconfigured by their place in the overall compositional picture. The bold, yet intuitive sequencing of sound elements is what makes ?in/exterior? so listenable, in a conventional, enjoyable way. Talia uses jarring edits only as an occasional dynamic device rather than as an essential compositional process, as in much of the work by the group of composers and improvisers centred around the French Metamkine label. Opening track ?interior? for instance fades into a dense web of Organum-esque drone, interrupted three minutes later by several flashes of digital noise that organically transform themselves into reverb-drenched feedback. Replaced by a group of high tones bending in pitch around a stationary note Alvin Lucier style, the piece builds to a hellish climax as the digital noise returns before gently fading out with some distant metallic percussion.
Talia retains this quality of compositional invention throughout ?in/exterior? and it is truly the work of a young artist who, though he grounds himself in the vocabulary of concrete and electronic music?s academic past, has succeeded in adding something to the world of electro-acoustic music. I eagerly await the sequel! 9/10 -- Francis Plagne (27 February, 2007)