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The first Quadra album is now available. Entitled First Contact it is a 2 cd package in a small DVD style case, containing nearly 2 1/2 hours of improvised music edited together from sessions held in February 2006.

Quadra comprise four of the musicians who appeared on the 'Hampshire Jam 'Jam' 2006' album featured elsewhere in this magazine. They are Brendan Pollard and friends he invited to his studio: Steve Humphries, John Sherwood and Jez Creek. Deep reverberating drones and a bass throb provide a very atmospheric introduction for 'Convergence'. Little melodies shimmer over the top accompanied by soothing mellotron. A rapid sequence nestles perfectly amongst the other instrumentation. A second comes to join it and we are soon motoring along in energetic, head nodding, fashion. In the eleventh minute things wind down to soft tron. A little melody shines above it all, echoed by the mellotron. Soft meandering tinkling piano adds to the gentle atmos still further. The track then seems to spend the next few minutes searching for direction. A sequence can be heard low in the mix but that is where it stays whilst various lead flourishes come and go but without really making their mark. In the twenty first minute a more substantial sequence surges forward, mutating this way and that only to subside back to tron and piano a couple of minutes later.

We then get a section of pleasant atmospherics which gradually becomes more metallicly percussive and sparse sounding. Images of dank rat infested dungeons come to mind. A heartbeat sound can be heard, soft drones lightening the mood which becomes brighter still as wordless vocal pads give an ethereal presence. The heartbeat fades away and is replaced by a tinkling sequence, slow rhythm then more sequences as things surge forward nicely once more. In my opinion this track was good for two thirds of its over forty minute duration, it just had a bit of a dodgy middle section where things became a little aimless. Initially 'Pastorale' is wonderfully soothing, with gentle tron and flutey synth combining beautifully. A tinkling sequence emerges in the second minute, then a rhythm starts up skipping along nicely. Flute sounds are particularly effective but the other leads aren't bad either. Sequences become more prominent as things get increasingly energetic. 'Starbirth' acts as something of a fest for mellotron and string pads. A faint beat low in the mix gives a hint of structure rather than any driving force, which in the context of the track is a good thing but I thought the track lost its way for the last three minutes as layers of percussion etc were added that weren't really necessary and only resulted in the track losing its focus. 'Heritage' starts in a similar tranquil way to the previous track, dreamy vocal samples adding a little detail whilst a slow strangely comforting throb can just be heard low in the mix. A gorgeous way to finish the first disc.

The second CD starts with 'Emergence'. The first few minute or so are a little like 'Epsilon in Malaysian Pale' but then we get lots of twittering effects. A slow bass sequence starts up and I found my head gently nodding to it. We descend to electronic twitters once more in the eighth minute. Whining drones go up and down the sonic spectrum like an alien craft swooping high into the air then plunging Earthward. In the thirteenth minute a brace of sequences pick up the pace. They bounce off each other nicely, various 'melodies' coming and going over the ever-present tron. The sequences mutate beautifully but the lead lines were maybe a little over done. This stage of the track finishes at about the twenty-minute mark. Mournful plucked strings lead to a slow sequence (backed by more mellotron of course) then restrained drums and yet another sequence. Things quickly build to quite a head of steam before just as suddenly subsiding, allowing the musicians to regroup for the next sequencer based section. The swirling pulsations work well enough but the leads seemed a bit directionless to me. 'Astral Plane' is a slow dreamy track, the atmospherics working wonderfully along with a subtle bass line. From around the six-minute mark the pulsations become more prominent and things chug along very nicely.

'Callisto' is a lovely track featuring soft tones over fizzling pads. There's something rather melancholy, even spooky about it all. 'Take-Off' creates tension with the use of choral pads. The sequences slowly start to build developing into a strange sort of manic groove. It's like listening to some bizarre satanic ceremony! This was a rather frustrating release to review as if the best bits had been edited down to a single CD it would have sounded superb but to my ears too much material was left in where they were experimenting in finding the right combinations. If they had just included the bits where they were really tuned into each other it would have worked much better. However, at the time of writing this, it is retailing at a single CD price so ain't bad value.

Review by Dave Law of Synthmusicdirect


All content copyright 2006 John Sherwood, Steve Humphries, Brendan Pollard and Jez Creek
All music copyright belongs to the respective artists