Oliver Leith - good day good day bad day bad day [Another Timbre - 2020]With one foot in moody-to-elegant/ if basic piano composition, and the other in wonky-to-quirky keyboard/ percussive wonderings this CD release some what of a anomaly. So it’s certainly one of the more bizarre, if not wholly successful releases of the true odd year that has been 2020.
This release appears on the allways worthy Another Timbre label- who releases some of the best/ thought-provoking modern classical/ modern composition around. The CD comes presented in the labels house style white mini gatefold- and fitting the material we have a decidedly bright, quirky & puzzling cover picture of two cuddly toys- one bulbous pink-headed wearing yellow stripy trouser wearing ‘I love you’ jumper, and the other a pink pig in blue shorts holding an ice-cream- both sat in front of a houseplant.
The mind/ composer behind the release is Oliver Leith- a London based composer who creates both acoustic & electronic music, as well a video art. His work focuses on text, image, video, theatre, pathos and the everyday. Seemingly he’s been composing work for last ten years or so- winning British Composer Award in 2016, and a Royal Philharmonic Composition prize in 2014. The players here are the GBSR duo- which takes in George Barton- percussion, and Siwan Rhys- piano & electric keyboard.
The piece here is entitled “good day good day bad day bad day” and it was written in 2018 with the total work rolling in at forty-four & a half minutes mark. It's split up into eight parts/ tracks with each of these running between two and nine minutes apiece- none of the tracks are named. Kicking things off we have the first track- and here we find a blend of very rudimentary church organ set keyboard wonderings blended with constantly basic battering electro percussion hits- the track is both sonically navie, yet at the same time kind of haunting/ felt with its basic melody. As we move on we have the wavering & bashing metallic percussion meets tight & dramatic piano runs of track three. By track five we move to a blend of simmering & slowly rising- yet gently pitch-shifting 80’s focused synth hovers, and chiming/ sharpe gong haphazardness- sounding like Boards Of Canada jamming with a small child. Track six is the longest here at nine minutes and forty-one-minute mark- here we find slow & dramatically plodding piano marches, blended with sentimental & wonky electro vibe tones- the two elements often going slightly out pitch. The whole thing finishes off with the bleak chopstick gone oriental keys, meets wondering/ childlike clunking percussion & distant waving string simmer of track eight.
I think it’s fair to say this is one of the more off-kilter & quirky releases I’ve heard put out by Another Timber- so it’s nice to see the label putting out something a little different from their normal output. On the paper, I should enjoy “good day good day bad day bad day” more than I do, as I’ve always been a fan of where wonky-meets- moody, or formal meets sonically bent. And there are moments of crooked wonder here- it’s just more often than not the off-kilter elements feel rather contrived, with the players just sounding like their altering their playing to sound bad, instead of real instrumental incompetence. And with this, unfortunately, the whole release lacks the real gone-wrong charm this type of thing should have.Roger Batty