Mark Springer: The Watching Bird/The Rip, Rig and Panic Solos

Tranquil classical outing by this acclaimed pianist.

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Perhaps best known for his time in avant- punk funksters Rip, Rig And Panic, pianist Mark Springer has since gone on to compose for string ensembles, and double album The Watching Bird showcases his chamber music.

Springer’s non-confrontational approach to rhythm and melody avoids any trace of the strident compositional language associated with the more avant-garde wing of the classical scene. Instead, The Portentino Piano Quartet and The Watching Bird String Quartets are characterised by tonal moods whose warm, measured qualities evoke the trills of Bax or Ravel. That’s not to say Springer’s writing lacks drive and pace. He frequently constructs an agitated dialogue between the light and dark of the string quartet’s respective registers, and engaging, discursive melodies are stretched out across twitchy rhythms. However, both discs proffer an air of restraint.

Released simultaneously, The Rip, Rig And Panic Piano Solos finds Springer revisiting older material as a springboard into newer solo settings. Though sometimes tender and lyrical, there’s an energetic spikiness far removed from his string quartets. Bristling with momentum, it’s exhilarating and adventurous.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.