Switched On – Primitive Motion: Portrait Of An Atmosphere (A Guide To Saints)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Brisbane duo Primitive Motion present a new album of unique sound worlds through Lawrence English’s A Guide To Saints imprint.

One look at the credits on their Bandcamp site reveals just how many instruments, colours and textures the two sonic creators have at their disposal. Sandra Selig is credited with contributions through voice, handclap, flute, cymbals, melodica, radio, saxophone, glass bowl, drums, marble in bamboo, zither, wind chimes and bowed cymbal. Meanwhile Leighton Craig contributes on the acoustic guitar, reed organ, cymbals, field recordings (Kyoto Japan), tremolo guitar, miniature saxophone, voice, piano, metal stool, bird call, synthesiser, wind chimes, shaker and timber box.

Between them, Primitive Motion have made a four-part Portrait Suite, bolstered by a fifth track, Trenches Of Time.

What’s the music like?

Intensely descriptive. Although all the instruments above are used, they are of course employed sparingly, and it is immediately clear how much thought has gone into the resultant colours and textures. Yet to their enormous credit Primitive Motion never make anything sound forced. They create their sonic visions with a healthy degree of musical instinct, allowing their material plenty of room to live and breathe.

Portrait is without question an outdoor suite, using field recordings as well as some deeply evocative percussion and instruments where the textures are very clearly thought out. The woozy reed organ with which Portrait II ends is a case in point, and so are Sandra Selig’s vocals, which have a unforced yet primal beauty in the first of the four movements, lost in thought as they are. The mournful and muffled saxophone at the start of Portrait III is striking, its line taken up by Selig’s vocalise. Her mysterious vocal drone on Portrait IV is also a prominent feature, fading in and out over a distracted piano line.

Trenches Of Time sits outside the four-part suite but is more than a coda. Instead it presents what, to this listener at least, feels like a heat-soaked tundra, with distant structures shimmering in the hot sun. Drones reinforce the intense musical humidity.

Does it all work?

It does – though the listening conditions have an important part to play here. This is definitely not an album to experience on the move, as much of the shading and detail will be lost.

Is it recommended?

It is. The name Primitive Motion is well chosen, for Selig and Craig strip music back to its basic elements in order to create pictures and meditations that leave a lasting impression.



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