Abiding Memory

Philip Golub


Phillip Golub – ABIDING MEMORY


Phillip Golub’s new album ABIDING MEMORY is released by BERTHOLD records 21.06.2024. The line-up: Phillip Golub (piano / rhodes / harpsichord / compositions), Alec Goldfarb (electric guitar), Daniel Hass (cello), Sam Minaie (bass) and Vicente Atria (drums). Golub, who composed the tracks, has produced a body of work at the cutting edge of modern jazz. “I tried to make an album that sounds like our experience of memories, with all the potential contradictory beauty, confusion, consolation and unsettledness,” he says. His music is avant-garde, edgy and complex. ABIDING MEMORY began with Golub sketching out ideas with his drummer friend Vicente Atria. “We dug deep into the sketches I’d written,” says the composer who decided it was to be an album with a band, including bass and cello which would expand the music’s expressive character. The album was designed as a suite, with interrelated themes and melodies. “Two concepts drove us: rubato with drums and ‘piano plus’,” says Golub. “It is fundamentally piano music, based on late 19th century work. But then it explodes onto the quintet, eliminating the line between whose parts are inside or on top of the piano sound.”


Golub thinks that listeners will understand the musical connections between the tracks, albeit at a subconscious level. “The two bar loop in the final track is the same first two bars of the opening track and it’s played throughout the record. It’s the abiding memory.” The track titles were devised, in free association, with a poet friend. “Words, phrases and ideas came up,” he says, explaining that the titles can be read as a poem. The first track Catching a Thread leads to Threads Gather then The Group to Hear, A Regrouping, and Unspooled (Waiting Quietly). The latter is a track recorded under unusual circumstances and gives an insight into the composer’s creative originality. “I asked the sound engineer to hit record while everyone was eating lunch,” recalls Golub, who sees music and food as closely related. “Both nourish us and help us to survive.” Golub played sparse chords on the piano and asked the engineer to play that back on the headphones. “I asked the guys to turn down everybody else, so they could only hear the playback. I instructed them to improvise, quoting from anywhere in the album’s whole score. So track five is an “unspooling” of the guts of the album.” Track six, In a Secret Corner, features, “odd, surprising rhythmic structures and fast moving gestures. It is a twisted memory of the third track,” explains the composer. By At the Eleventh Hour, “we’re getting towards midnight on the album. It has a brash, rock vibe.” Track nine, A Moment Becomes, has layers of five pianos, three harpsichords and four rhodes, produced to reach, “a mysterious climax suspended in time.” The final track, Abiding Memory, synthesises the disparate sonic elements and production styles of the album and gives it its name.


Golub argues that his compositions represent a vision of himself in a cavern, thinking up the craziest music he can — in this case reminiscent of composers such as Scriabin and Brahms alongside the sounds of the harpsichord and rhodes, plus electronic drums which originate from the 1980s. “And there’s mediaeval counterpoint, Keith Jarrett Quartet’s rubato sensibility, and some Thelonius Monk chord voicings,” he adds. “That’s what innovation is – taking things from the past and giving them new meaning. If people notice the reference points, cool, if not it’s also cool.” The compositions were  shaped in collaboration with the four individuals around him. His collective approach goes beyond his own quintet. “I’ve spent the last four years involved in The Music Workers Alliance, an organisation trying to create a better future for myself and my fellow musicians.” He says that his own music is not directly political, but adds, “there are political aspects to the way that I make music, based on crediting the work that people do, collaborating rather than competing. My work is about imagining or creating the world we want to live in, rather than critiquing the world as it is.”


Golub thinks that composers of new music apologise too much. “We’re often telling our audiences they may not like it, so then they don’t like it.” He thinks that people who don’t know a lot about traditional jazz are often more open to sounds that push the envelope, precisely because music is a gratifying bodily experience. “You can look away from a painting, but you can’t shut out music,” he says. ABIDING MEMORY offers a complete corporal and cerebral involvement in the new musical horizons that Golub and his fellow musicians have devised for the open-minded avant-jazz listeners.


Ian Bild – January 2024

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