Exposé Online banner

Ergo — As Subtle as Tomorrow
(Cuneiform Rune 419, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-02-20

As Subtle as Tomorrow Cover art

One of the promising recent trends in music around the world has been the increasing cross-fertilization of what can roughly be labeled academic chamber music with other styles. Of course this is something that’s been going on for a long time, at least back to the first hints of ragtime that showed up in the “serious” piano repertoire, and includes composers such as Gershwin and Ives. Coming at it from the other side, jazz innovators like Duke Ellington brought elements of classical music into jazz, and starting in the 70s various rock groups initiated what has come to be called chamber rock. Starting with Univers Zéro and others, through to Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, The Claudia Quintet, The Cellar and Point, and Tatvamasi, to name a few. We’ve come a long way since I attended a young composers’ camp and one of the other attendees told me, “I like jazz fine — but I prefer music.” Ergo is in the same general category, with their own particular blend of chamber music, jazz, rock, and electronics. Trombonist Brett Sroka is the composer, and while Ergo is only a trio — Sroka joined by Shawn Baltazor (drums) and Sam Harris (keyboards) — the use of live electronics often gives the illusion of a larger ensemble. The overall impression is generally minimalist, consisting of one or two elements at a time, with the electronics providing a kind of ambient counterpoint flying off the played parts like sparks flying off a grinding wheel. (The metaphor is only partly apt, since Ergo’s music has none of the crude noise that a grinding wheel implies.) Harris’s piano is often the underpinning of the pieces, sometimes natural and sometimes prepared, though he also uses a Rhodes electric piano. The tumbling arpeggios are infused with a sense of calm which is enhanced by the echoes and reverberations they trigger. Sroka’s trombone provides both melody and texture, with a yearning, mournful tone that never ventures into the kind of jazz cliches that so many players rely on. At times it sounds more like a trumpet or something unworldly, and it too goes into the electronic stew. Baltazor’s drumming combines a jazzy approach with great sensitivity to what’s going on around him, never just laying back and swinging. In fact, his parts don’t really seem to be based on patterns but on either supporting the pulse expressively (when there is a pulse) or providing his own color in the freer sections. As Subtle as Tomorrow is a lovely musical vision inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem, and in aesthetic has the same gauzy suggestiveness without concrete resolution.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Ergo

Latest news

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Spirit - Son of Spirit / Farther Along & Future Games / Spirit of 84 – After Spirit’s first four classic albums, the band entered a period of fluctuating personnel, style, and success. The double-LP Spirit of ‘76 had marked the revitalization of the band around...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues