Review Summary: Math-rocker meets art-rock genius-turned-ambient god outside the toilets at a gig, retreat to Suffolk, and come up with a wildly good album.
In the press release by Dead Oceans regarding Finding Shore
, the debut solo effort by Three Trapped Tigers vocalist/pianist Tom Rogerson, accompanied by the ever-legendary Brian Eno, much effort goes into emphasizing that Finding Shore
is, for all intents and purposes, Tom Rogerson’s album first and foremost – despite the shared billing with the art-rock-turned-ambient maestro Eno. That, and they first met outside the washrooms at a gig both men were attending; although that detail is hardly relevant in the scheme of things.
Describing his time in Tigers as “a diversionary tactic” and “an escape from the classical world”, Rogerson himself put it as “falling out my ivory tower very slowly”; Rogerson had difficulty composing pieces “to any one album”, as the press release leads us to believe. Eno’s influence, while expanding much further beyond this, was to guide Rogerson to honing his craft; to improvise, and to experiment along the way to learn from the experience. Introducing the Piano Bar, a relatively obscure piece of Moog equipment, allowed for the piano improvisations to be fleshed out in post-production. By sending a midi signal via the notes of Rogerson’s piano, this signal would then trigger new, digital sounds; whilst Rogerson would improvise on the piano, Eno would take the midi signal and then improvise with it to create an entire piece of music from it. A piece which stood out to the duo, “An Iken Loop”, stemmed from a single 45-minute improvisation that left Rogerson particularly impressed; Eno, on the other hand, opted to splice 30-second segments from the recording, and pasting them all together into one singular three-minute piece that is formed around several loops, as inspired by the French composer Erik Satie, whose work is often cited as a precursor to the minimalism and surrealism artistic movements.
Guided by Eno’s experience with several techniques, both in and outside the confines of the studio, Rogerson’s aptitude for riveting improvisation thrived. Methods, which included playing along to an arpeggiator, random chord sequences drawn from a hat, and juxtaposing midi and physical sounds, all served to tap into Rogerson’s potential as both a classical improviser and as a composer. Finding Shore
could very well be a dry run for the pianist, but you wouldn’t even be able to tell had the information the Dead Oceans press release kept the details to a stifled mum. Several of the pieces offered, while retaining a sense of Eno’s craftiness, all lend themselves to Rogerson’s expertise with the piano, but never rely on it – always branching out into other realms and digging for newer sounds and painstakingly innovative ways to improvise on the go. “Idea of Order at Kyson Point” and “Motion in Field”, the two pre-release singles to promote the album, both entertain the aspect of trance-inducing instrumentation and heavily minimal techniques to highlight Rogerson’s playing, but instead serves its own roles to help the piece evolve naturally despite coming from a digitally-manufactured origin.
Deeper cuts further delve into the highly-improvisational nature of the duo’s work together, really bringing the chemistry between the two into a more focal observation. “March Away” introduces a percussional element to an otherwise hollowed-out piece dominated by gliding piano/synth chords, whereas “Minor Rift” leaves Rogerson amidst a solemn synthesized backing to perform a melancholic solo that really allows the pianist some breathing room. “Quoit Blue” further increases this idea with ethereal synthesis leading a lonesome piano accompaniment into a very celestial-like theme, and in the meanwhile, expressing an openness that is often present on Finding Shore’s
13 compositions. “Marsh Chorus” conveys a heavy-handed Enoesque framing, never wandering aimlessly from its original intent; a piece that gradually progresses, it harkens back to some of Eno’s own ambient works, although with a modern tone to it.
“Rest,” a closer with a knack for repetition, before blossoming into an empty, hazy coda, perfectly emphasizes a point Rogerson had made about his thoughts on musical improvisation; pointing out that while “nothing inspired” Finding Shore
and its compositions, the ability to “tap so directly into the subconscious” had allowed Rogerson and Eno to create this music so freely and without pretense. A remarkable feat perhaps, that Tom Rogerson and Brian Eno were able to create something so wonderous from absolutely nothing at all, but on Finding Shore
, the pair make it look incredibly simple while creating some of the most intriguing classical/ambient music of this past decade.