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.