In four numbered and segued parts, “Playmates” is a 40-minute work combining lo-fi guitar, analogue tape-loops, electronic bleeps and a microtonal tuba into a dark array of drones, frantic rustling, spontaneous improvised percussive hits and found sounds akin to alien bird noises (and the occasional dafter duck-like noise).
The guitar, at points, flirts with the idea of melody, before shying away into individual, almost petulantly plucked standalone notes. Similarly the low percussive rumbles and almost sarcastic clap sounds sometimes engage in a repetition that has the natural feeling of a rhythm, before wilfully stepping away from it into random thumps and clicks.
Part 3 stands apart somewhat, bringing the melodic elements to the forefront, especially the weird tuba, adding gated processing on the drones and instigating a slow building drone reminiscent of Lygeti but with electronic pops. As such it’s a highlight, followed up by the more sparsely arrangement Part 4 where the wall of drone gives way to a more barren collection of tape warbles, pitch-shifted percussive sounds and clicks.
It’s a rich performance from the Muddersten trio, perhaps lacking a handle onto which the listener can tightly engage, and totally mis-sold by the slightly pop art collage artwork, but releases on SOFA tend to be good quality and this certainly doesn’t break that pattern.
- Stuart Bruce