It isn’t often that great novelists are cited as inspiration for great recordings, but David Mitchell, now resident in Cork, and Don Dellilo have walk on roles in Fringe Magnetic’s eclectic Clocca, very much Rory Simmons’ gig, because he wrote all the music.
Esoteric titles aside (Only A Poltroon Despises Pedantry, Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo,)Clocca remains an experience, with intriguing arrangements by Simmons: Only A Poltroon, one of the shorter tracks, has the discernible air of an east European polka, but the mood is lowered straight after with Clocca, as if a different band took to the stage, with Simmons’ horn reminiscent of Davis in New York on the cusp of A Kind of Blue, before the mood switches like a twilight storm.
The musicianship is wonderful (Simmons on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ivo Neame on piano and accordion, to name but two out of nine musicians, excluding the vocals of Elisabeth Nygaard, Andrew Plummer and Emilia Martensson) with exquisite marriage of vocal and music heard first on the Nygaard-penned Cross the Border.
What appeals about this recording is the diversity of composition which facilitates the breadth of musical styles at Simmons’ disposal, and he ain’t afraid to experiment with the stew: Buffalo, Buffalo, Buffalo opens with Jasper Holby’s bass and Natalie Rozario’s plucked cello like a tight jazz duo, suddenly joined by Robin Fincker’s playful clarinet and, surprise, Tori Freestone’s flute.
About 15 years ago I saw an English band in Clonakility, called Elephant Talk, andFringe Magnetic has that similar big band chemistry: switching harmony like a breeze, exquisite interplay of styles and an inventiveness that never runs out of steam. This is a collection not laced by what you might call a singular mood.
The consistency is twofold: the imaginative and seductive compositions of Simmons (his generosity of spirit to his fellow musicians) and – quite simply – the wonderful playing. If ever you wanted a collection of new songs to take your head for a walk, Clocca is it.
The perfect blend of the instruments, the definitive coruscation of musicians on top of their game, is demonstrative on Matryoshka, with Kit Massey’s violin and Neame’s accordian in particular, with consistent tempo among repeat metric patterns. This is Fringe Magnetic’s third and, apparently, final album.