Monday, 4 June 2012

Expanse - Andrew Richardson (1984)

Let me be succinct - this album is awesome. Picture this: a synth-heavy, flute-heavy, proggy concept album "inspired by the vast Australian Outback and Aboriginal Dreamtime stories that originated there". The musician responsible for this 'ballet' as it is described on the back cover is flautist Andrew Richardson, who seems to have been active in Melbourne in the eighties, but on whom I can find little information or context. I found a single of his called Sally/Dive a while ago at the same op-shop as I found this LP, but it didn't even hint at the greatness of which this man was capable.

Although the album only features two musicians, Richardson on flutes and Ian Eccles-Smith on keyboards, this is a full-sounding album with plenty of variation and dynamic range. Falling stylistically somewhere between Vangelis's eighties albums and a documentary soundtrack of a similar age, there are lots of ephemeral flutes, noisy synths and the occasional field recording of indigenous singing and percussion. Although it could be a little ambient (or god forbid "new age-y") for some listeners, there are some very strong, melodically driven tracks which are the definite highlights for me. The first such track is Tiddalik - The Frog which opens with the synth laying down a whimsical motif in 4/4 and then segues into a gorgeous, baroque waltz section lead by Richardson's flute - all the while augmented by deep, synth "croaks" representing the titular amphibian. The album closes with Brolga which is another lush waltz allowing Richardson to harmonise multiple haunting flute lines over some very effective synth bass.

This may just be due to my idiosyncratic musical tastes, but this LP represents a real lost gem to me and I urge you to have a listen if this sounds like your kind of thing.

EDIT: You may notice that keyboardist Ian Eccles-Smith says hello in the comments of this post and recommends his album Apsilene. I have just written a post on this piece and also conducted an email interview with Ian which you can read here

Label: A.R.M.
Released: 1984
Players: Andrew Richardson - flutes
Ian Eccles-Smith - keyboards
(Richardson and Smith also arranged, produced and engineered the album.)