In the second track of the electronics- and sax-infused debut by Alistair Penman, a cleverly spliced voiceover explains that reverse engineering is the process of extracting knowledge or design information from anything man-made to get at its essential features and their relationships to each other. Working on this basis, what can we tell about this emerging British artist by reverse engineering Electric Dawn?
Firstly, by unpacking the unorthodox combination of electronic and acoustic we learn that Penman is a pioneering instrumentalist and writer who is creating music that explores new territory. The use of electronic programming teases out new sounds within the conventional solo-saxophone canon, creating ethereal soundscapes and an all together surprising interplays throughout the record.
Secondly, if Electric Dawn is the first complete invention from Alastair’s undoubtedly brilliant imagination, there are still some parts that aren’t entirely predictable and/or stable. This is no bad thing. Daniel Harle’s ‘Higher’ crashes in after the dream-weaving poise of the first three tracks disrupting the direction of the record making way for the purposeful counterpoint that happens in the middle of the album. He could go in many different directions from here, and the jazz/electronic/music world will be all the richer for it.
Rather like Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble found one another, it feels as is Alistair Penman’s saxophone has found electronics in this mould of collaboration. There’s much to extract from this record, and equally much to enjoy as a cohesive and triumphantly experimental debut.
Electric Dawn was produced by saxophonist and producer John Harle and supported by the City Music Foundation.