Following on from Dreamland (2015, Chaos Collective), Punch (Edition, 2016) and The Influencing Machine (Edition, 2018), Elliot Galvin's fourth album is a departure from the previous two. Here he abandons his electronic gadgetry in favour of pure acoustic instrumentation. This was a deliberate move on Galvin's part since the inspiration for album derived from witnessing a solo piano concert in Montreux by Jason Moran. Unusually, Modern Times was recorded and mixed "live" straight to vinyl in one session with no breaks. This pre-tape recording technique has not been widely used since the 1930s so the album's title is somewhat ironic.
"Ghosts" is dominated by an insistent bass and drum pulse and over which Galvin evinces block chords and evanescent piano melodies. The Galvin eccentricity sporadically manifests itself with the occasional fragment of percussion such as woodblock or finger cymbals as heard at the start of "Mr. Monk." As with this tune and its predecessor, the tracks are frequently segued with no dividing intervals, explained by the aforementioned rarely used recording process.
"Cat And Mouse" evolves from staccato attack via quasi-flamenco handclaps to a sudden rhythmic melee of tension release. The angular start to "Shadows" gives way to a repeated piano figure which expands into a much broader territory. The approach here, as with other parts of the album, is not unlike that taken by Howard Riley when the pianist and doyen of free jazz still employed charts. However, sometimes the jazz element is subverted by neo-classical elements such as those found on "Fountainhead" which, with its repeated piano motifs and arco bass, comes marginally closer to, say, Erik Satie than jazz.
"Gold Shovel" oscillates between pastoral and heavy(-ish) blues with the emphasis on thumping piano chords. The quirky "Change" begins with an offbeat that's revisited later, but as its title suggests, it's also prone to multiple tempo and mood changes. "To The Moon" benefits from a pervasive melody line which successfully insinuates itself into the listener's memory banks. Galvin is clearly influenced by Thelonious Monk but also reveals a passing similarity to Django Bates' idiosyncratic singularity and a playfulness that is intrinsically fused with deadly seriousness.
Ghosts; Mr. Monk; Cat and Mouse; Shadows; Fountainhead; Change; Jackfruit; Gold Shovel; Into the Dark; To the Moon.
Elliot Galvin: piano; Tom McCredie: double bass; Corrie Dick: drums.
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