Monday, April 11, 2011

topology: difference engine (serrated records)

In this week's edition of Inpress:

Whatever else it might be, a review is first and foremost a recommendation. So I should begin by saying that I cannot recommend the latest effort from Brisbane ‘new music’ stalwarts Topology highly enough. Difference Engine is an extremely accomplished record. It is rich and gorgeous and playful and urgent. It has charm and depth and, above all, vitality: life, vigour, exuberance.

More specifically, Topology’s seventh album since their formation way back in 1997 comprises four distinct works over ten movements, all for a basic quintet of piano, bass, viola, violin and saxophones, with the addition of djembe on Robert Davidson’s exquisite Exterior. There is an extent to which Difference Engine can be understood as an exploration of the relationship between the mathematic and the organic, the mechanical and the vital: or to put it somewhat more poetically, the difference between clockwork and a pulse. φX174, for instance, is named after a bacteriophage and was composed in part by mapping DNA letters to pitches to create melodic and harmonic material. ‘Both genes and music’, we are told, ‘are made of linear and quantized information which represents unfathomable diversity and mystery.’ And the record itself is named after ‘the world’s first computer’, Charles Babbage’s ‘difference engine’ from 1822.

All this is evident acoustically primarily in terms of the use of repetition which, although it is undoubtedly a key part of the compositional vocabulary, never (d)evolves into a full blown minimalism. Rather, it provides the music with its heartbeat and its considerable drive, if not necessarily its soul. That comes, of course, from the performers themselves: Babbage, Hoey, Powell, Colbers and the two Davidsons. This is an album which sounds as though it has been wrought from the best part of fifteen years of both friend- and musicianship.

james parker


  1. Thanks for your kind words about our album

  2. Thank you for making such an excellent record!

  3. A lovely review and completely on the mark