‘Dance With The Ghosts Quartet’ by David Six

The main aim with the music on the album Dance With The Ghosts Quartet is to address political issues with the language of instrumental music. All the compositions on the album are dedicated to special people or topics such an incredibly courageous Afghan woman activist; the concept of final crop trees; the changing environmental landscape and the perspectives of our children on it; European refugee politics and more. Details of the track influences can be found in the booklet that comes with the album.

‘Chant (For My Daughters’s Friends)’ begins with a simple sounding melody set out by Davis Six at the piano before being joined by trumpeter Mario Rom whose breathy delivery gives the tone a fuzzy edge. The rhythmic support from Beate Wiesinger on bass and drummer Lukas König is very good and emphasises the playing of this quartet as a single unit moving in one direction. ‘Zarifa’ is dedicated to Zarifa Ghafari, the first woman to have ever been mayor in Afghanistan, and opens with a haunting sound that grows in volume and definition. The excellent trumpet playing fades and we get a spacious piano, bass and drum break before the piano becomes slowly brighter alongside the trumpet notes that lift and soar above it, but all the while there is that constant drum and bass line that keeps the tune linked to its opening bars: I found this tune captivating, intriguing and thought-provoking throughout.

‘Light & Airy’ has its roots in the classical Indian music tradition and is built on a recurring cyclical motif. That distorted edged trumpet sound is back in play but in the middle of the number everything drops out to the lightest touch of sounds (notes are not the right word here) before the repeating motif, the earworm, returns. Rhythmically pulsating, deceptively simple in terms structure, and question raising: why that break? Why the use of minimal soundscape? What is the composer trying to portray?

‘Moira’ opens with the hesitant, probing sound of David Six’ piano and a suggested melody that steadily finds its feet but does not feel quite sure of itself. Mario Rom offers support by playing a slightly stronger melodic line but still that hesitancy hangs in the resulting sound. When Rom plays with a cleaner sound the result is wonderful, particularly in the lower register, and this moves the number on to firmer, more confident sounding ground, which allows the melody to shine – the question is, does that belief in the tune remain?

‘The Limbo Of Forgotten Memories’ is a marvellous drum solo from Lukas König that is in keeping with the overall feel of the album. The ‘Norway Maple Song (Quartet Version)’ is a beautifully lyrical tune which, somehow, manages to sound both optimistic and melancholy. There is a strong bass line throughout the number that roots the tune as the piano and trumpet weave in and around the pulsing sound provided by Beate Wiesinger. ‘The Gloaming (Quartet Version)’ is the final track on the CD and vinyl versions of Dance With The Ghosts Quartet and it opens with a slow musical rumble that fades out to be replaced by a brighter sounding melody. This tune shifts around never staying too long on any one idea; like moving in out of the shadows of dusk. At times I thought I detected tones of Scottish folk but then I thought I noticed a classical music structure: ???

When I first listened to Dance With The Ghosts Quartet I did so without referring to the accompanying booklet. I had open David Six’ notes whilst writing this post and some of what I wrote was influenced by what I read, but it did not answer all the questions that came to mind as I listened. If you concur with Roland Barthes’ argument in his essay ‘The Death of The Author’ whatever the author or composer writes, ultimately the meaning is decided by the reader or listener. Davis Six, as the composer, can only offer guidance as to how this album is received but what he has written, and his Quartet have played, I have found to be repeatedly fascinating and constantly open to question and response: thank you David!

Dance With The Ghosts Quartet is the first part of a trilogy named ‘Dance With The Ghosts’. The second and third parts are due later in the year. The second one has been recorded with a chamber-sextet, the third will consist of compositions for soloists. The first of this trilogy is available now, in three formats, from Bandcamp.

Musicians: David Six – piano & composition; Lukas König – drums; Beate Wiesinger – bass; Mario Rom – trumpet.

Tracklist: 1. Chant (For My Daughters’s Friends). 2. Zarifa. 3. Light & Airy. 4. Moria. 5. The Limbo Of Forgotten Memories. 6. Norway Maple Song (Quartet Version). 7. The Gloaming (Quartet Version). Download only bonus tracks 8. Bonus track I: Dance With A Ghost. 9. Bonus track II: Collateral Murder.

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