back, before is the fourth album of the experimental, free improvising trio Great Waitress – German pianist Magda Mayas and Australian accordionist Monika Brooks and clarinetist Laura Altman, who also uses feedback, and it was recorded live at Annandale Creative Arts Centre, an old church hall in the inner west of Sydney in June 2018. None of these imaginative improvisers plays in a conventional manner, but as Chris Abrahams (The Necks’ pianist) observed in his insightful liner notes, there is still a great respect for the fundamentals of music making.
Mayas employs an array of preparations and often uses the piano strings as a highly resonating yet delicate percussive instrument or otherworldly wind machinery, but always with a strong formal syntax and a deep understanding of musical space. Altman whisper, chants and speaks through her clarinet while exploring microtonal rhythmic sounds. Brooks plays sustained, almost translucent notes, compelling by the seeming effortlessness of their making. Together they have established a strong musical identity, one that transcends the individual voices of Mayas, Altman and Brooks, and one made from a multi-dimensional counterpoint—timbral, rhythmic, harmonic, melodic, emotional.
back, before offers two extended pieces. «back» is a quiet, intriguing piece that intertwines patiently the poetic yet most vulnerable sonic explorations so they can float and inhabit a particular sonic area – a hypnotic and mysterious dreamscape, for just the right amount of time, before shifting apart to explore other combinations. «before» follows the same improvisation strategy but reaches new sonic terrains, ethereal in a different way and more resonating yet close to the previous ones with their fragile, hypnotic impact. You can not perform with such intuitive depth, a totally natural flow of ideas and create such an enigmatic aura without the profound trust Mayas, Altman and Brooks have in each other and the group as a whole. And as Abrahams concluded, Great Waitress’ music is clothed instantly in its mystery and beauty. «This is why humans make and need music. This is how I feel when I listen to back, before».
Magda Mayas (p), Monica Brooks (acc), Laura Altman (cl, feedback)