Eyebrows crept a bit higher on foreheads, mouths opened slightly, maybe a few people leaned a bit further back in their seats. The impact of the opener in Phronesis’ first set at Wiltshire Music Centre on Friday night was dramatic. 67,000 mph followed a typical pattern for the trio; ear snagging riffs with sharp changes of gears, scattered phrases from Ivo Neame on piano that accumulate into a blizzard of notes, a firestorm of percussion whipped up by Anton Eger on drums, Jaspar Hoiby standing between them, holding down a tricky bass figure with occasional embellishments and looking from one to the other, nodding appreciatively.
Hoiby’s slightly divergent banter between tunes relieved the tension a bit, and may even have been a bit too self-deprecating as he joked ‘all our tunes sound the same’. A Phronesis recipe there may be, but it’s designed to maximise the thrill factor in live performance. The volcanic momentum of Eger’s drumming was constantly arresting, delivered as often at a whisper or with a rattle as with full blooded battering. Silver Moon tiptoed round its jigsaw of melodic phrases and singing bass phrases before leaving space for Eger’s drum breaks, filled with space and brushing caresses of the cymbals. Stillness belied its name with accumulating clatter, what looked like a knife and fork pressed into service on the kit.
The trios reflexes and responsiveness to each other were razor sharp, raging solos frequently punctuated with little stops or momentary slackening of the intensity of pulse driving the music on. Neame’s playing seemed to get ever more fluid as the evening wore on, relentlessly percussive with dazzling slivery runs and then little oases of distorting lyricism, A Kite for Seamus a sublime synthesis of his rhythmic sensibility and shifting harmonies. Hoiby too delivered a singing, melodic solo on that piece.
This was one of just three UK gigs (for now) as they launch a new recording, Parallax. On this showing they are still on top form and surely one of the most thrilling live acts around. Sunday night at London’s Cadogan Hall is the official UK launch, but the enthusiastic, near capacity crowd at Wiltshire Music Centre were delighted with their early experience of the fire-works.