Qua – ‘Q&A’
December 2, 2008 § 1 Comment
Published: The Vine, November 20, 2008.
Perhaps one of the more disconcerting factors in the lead up to Q&A was the self-spun discourse surrounding it. In August, only three months before Q&A’s release, Qua (Melbourne electronic composer Cornel Wilczek) dropped an impromptu third album Silver Red; a four-part, entirely improvised “experimental” album, as opposed, he claimed, to the “pop” album he would deliver later in the year. A clear line was drawn.
In retrospect, the fact that Silver Red’s fluttered instrumentation and burbling electronic textures made for comparatively easy listening didn’t help either. If Qua’s “experimental” was this unashamedly pleasant to the ear, his “pop” record would surely be like butter melting, like honey dripping. Like swings and Frisbees and puppies and bowl haircuts.
Wrong. From its first cut – the wondrous high-end melodic clusters and static-piqued electro-pop of ‘Lapsang Souchong’ – Q&A is freakin’ loco. And blissfully so. It is dense and fragmented and mashed and shattered; it is reassembled all wrong. It is a battalion of tiny electronic sounds turned up and magnified to breaking point. Pivot’s Laurence Pike gets involved and hits drums at a shambolic rate; Wilczek adds some dexterous guitars to the maelstrom.
Flashes of effusive brilliance fire off at right angles. ‘Circles’ applies booming, tumbling percussion to 80s computer game aesthetics and a spooky, droning synth sound. ‘Goodmorning Son’ takes a cutesy recorder and guitar motif and throws it to the electronic wolves. ‘Dance of the Three Fours’ works in reverse – an intriguing recorder and guitar melody eventually wriggles its way free from a dense, clamorous overture. Likewise, the Pike thunderstorm of ‘The Lion’s Flying Dream’ clears into a frightfully beautiful lustre of melody, before ‘Yes Sir, No Sir’ carries the torch. It’s quite masterful.
In considering Q&A, we should first set some parameters. The first is about definition. Put simply, Qua’s take on a pop record just doesn’t amount to pop as we know it. If we want it to sound like some insipid synth-pop, it just ain’t gonna happen. Q&A isn’t simplistic and it isn’t instantly digestible. These astoundingly complex sound worlds are chaotic, for sure, but what affords them their beauty are the joyous melodies and motifs that rise from the clutter.