In Mark Springer's work, there is a presence of emotional distortion that pushes forward a striking narrative of signatures and chords.
This year sees two new releases by Mark Springer, a musician and composer of dedicated craftsmanship who has honed his skills in everything from off-the-wall punk to difficult works of avant-garde music. Springer finds an intermediate point between accessibility and invention, often practicing a restraint that allows him mobility and a platform for his impressive skills. The Watching Bird, one of the two new releases, reveals Springer’s most capricious and passionate tendencies in song. A double-disc comprised of piano quintets and string quartets, the album is a collection of work that should place a high watermark above the efforts of others working a similar stratum of musical vision.
The first disc opens with the Potentino Piano Quintet. Each movement (four in all) is marked by notes that are, in turns, impellent and dry, forcing into shape a structure of galvanic curves which soon become restless with colour. Springer’s work is minimal and precise but he employs a sense of upheaval, levelling emotional inclines in the powerful, cinematic sweep of his playing. The four movements glide and dip effortlessly along, the melodic flows running deep into the soul-filled concaves of this organized sound. At times, these arrangements are impressed upon with passions almost violent and Springer manoeuvres the flows of sound adroitly, keeping measure with the speed of dispensed emotions.
“Music For Five Pianos”, a set of seven pieces recorded live at the St. George church in Bristol, continues the winding stretch of hushed bedlam. There is an even greater presence of emotional distortion that pushes forward a striking narrative of signatures and chords.
The second disc, entitled The Watching Bird, features three separate sets of suites for the string quartet, and it is here especially that Springer demonstrates his ability to liquefy soul into sound. Achieving a Szymanowski-intensity, the artist explores a dynamic which has him upholding the traditions of many composers of the late Romantic German School while still exercising the techniques that were practiced by Schoenberg. Each set achieves a handsome stridency of certitude and purpose and Springer accomplishes an ever-expanding sense of mystery, summoning then dissolving tension with fluctuating pressures. The final set (of which the album is named after) examines a minimal, probing search that has the composer working a continuum of distance and space. The first set of the disc, however, is not to be missed; entitled “Camargue”, it propels all the emotional dangers within the fixed-time of orchestrated sound. It’s a beautiful, supple mess that finds co-ordinance under the charmed hands of a consummate player.
Springer’s other release, The Rip Rig and Panic Piano Solos, comprises his piano solos from his days with the avant-punk band. Including unreleased material and outtakes, the Piano Solos offer a curious consumption of all Springer’s influences, from his time as a music student to his days of wild abandon in London’s punk scene of the ‘80’s. There is discipline here, but the forms are free and Springer travels boldly across the terrains, loosened from his bonds of classical doctrines.
Both releases are lavishly filled out with extensive liner booklets that detail Springer’s progression in his work. Featuring a set of his paintings, which take on qualities both impressionistic and mercurial, the booklets also implicitly reveal the visual nature of his music. With sound, texture and composition, there is an articulation of discovery and image here, like a certain colour not yet conceived of. In every instant of every note played, Springer manages a movement both transfixing and elusive all at once.