With energized minimalism, Toronto drummer and synthesizer player Robert Diack reconstitutes fragments of other genres into this fourteen-track CD, using repetitive textures driven by his solid drum beats to create resourceful if somewhat claustrophobic pieces.
With further expressions from bassist Brandon Davis, guitarist Patrick O’Reilly, and pianist Jacob Thompson, whose languid chording defines most of the themes, the pointillist tunes run from a little over one minute to about six-and-a-half minutes, with some theme statements and brief rhythmic elaborations. While they’re grounded in contemporary performance, snatches of notated music often intrude—from Romantic and Baroque to gospel, aggressive rock, and even country and western. These interludes only disrupt the consistent drumbeats and piano patterns long enough to confirm the humanity beneath the recurring motifs.
That means vibrating country guitar-picking and steel guitar-like whines add vocal-like echoes to tunes like “Indigent” and “Sassafras,” while a blend of buzzing synthesizer shakes, dial-twisting flanges, and twangs from the guitarist enliven “Plex.” Ironically, the track that bridges these diverse elements most appropriately is “Secede,” a group composition built around brittle drum cracks, resonating double-bass thumps, and a recurring single note from the pianist. Percussive rat-a-tats and sliding guitar frails then add power, if not speed, to the interaction.
With Small Bridges Diack has shown he can create and express uncomplicated themes. With the talent assembled, however, more space for elaboration and individuality would have helped the presentation.