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PREMIERE: Topology - Tortured Remixes

8 May 2017 | 2:07 pm | Staff Writer

Contemporary classical act Topology are gearing up to release their 14th record, Tortured Remixes, this Thursday, 11 May and are lucky enough to have the band's composers take us through each song on the new release.
The band will be launching the album in Brisbane on 11 and 12 May at Vulcana Womens Circus.

Tortured Remixes is our 14th album which we're releasing as part of our 20th anniversary. When Topology first formed in 1997, one of our favourite things to do together was reimagine popular music for our unique mix of instruments: piano, violin, viola, bass, and saxophone.
This album is our tribute to influential music from our childhood up to the popular tunes our children enjoy. We've taken our favourite parts from iconic songs, bent, flipped, and stretched them, then added our own flavour into the mix. Upon close inspection, one will observe that many of our titles are anagrams of the tunes we have tortured. We won't name what those songs are, because where's the fun in that?
Our composers weigh in on the individual pieces below.

1. I Am Petrified

Bernard Hoey: Whereas the appeal of the original version is its rhythmic and melodic simplicity, I have tried instead to see how many different things can be done with, or to, the musical elements; twisting, stretching, shortening, back to front, upside down, making the textures dense and confused, leading to a rhythmically unpredictable and insistent ending.

2. Two-Punk Fun

Robert Davidson: The relaxed swagger of the original has been replaced with a hyped-up frenzy with lots of sliding around, using up lots of far-flung notes, and rude noises from the viola. I liked this song's catchy, overlapping riffs and wanted to hear them in a fast, Topology setting.

3. Fantastic Note Coatings

Robert Davidson: The dissatisfaction reaches manic proportions of restless anxiety in a descent into dark madness and fright. Strands of sabre dances and Beethovenian fury fuse with '80s pop, false senses of security, avant-garde cabaret and atonal splatterings. We hear Topology's audience members join in on the choruses, shouting their frustrations at not being able to get what they want. The starting point for this one was the insistent riff and its capturing of exasperated desire - I wanted to turn up the notch on this.

4. Whinging Tweet

John Babbage: I’m hopeless at cryptic crosswords and most word games. But listeners should know this iconic Australian rock tune, even with the Latin feel. Try working it out before you listen.

5. Viola Zen Cry

Robert Davidson: The calm melancholy of the viola sets the tone for this reflective take on Beyonce's classic. A serious, wistful mood gives a different perspective on being madly in love and knowing how much one has to lose. I love Beyonce's performance and use of the classic riffs from Are You My Woman (Tell Me So) by The Chi-Lites and wanted to hear them in a moodier tempo and harmonic setting. I particularly like the shimmering sparkles of string harmonics and piano.

6. Die, Hewn Revolutionary Hag

Bernard Hoey: I decided it would be fun to take the song's catchy unison guitar and bass lines, and use them as a starting point for what is essentially a Stevie Wright fantasy; how it may have been in an alternative universe. The rhythms, harmonies, and melodies are all reimagined, and the song is extended so as to make room for a somewhat epic, dramatic, final section.

7. Triads Mend

Robert Davidson: The distorted strings almost morph into electric guitars, and a bare-basic drum machine drives forward this minimalistic take on the first punk single. I like the unvarying texture of this and the way the song captures a time and place so perfectly.

8. Anguish Ain’t In It

John Babbage: Difficult enough on saxophone, it's great to hear strings playing a Charlie Parker solo break. No harmony was harmed in this arrangement, but if you’re going to mess with the name of a Dizzy Gillespie standard, you may as well mess with the rhythm.

9. Mere Malady

Bernard Hoey: This is a version of the ABBA classic that one would experience in a dream, not in real life.

10. Bleary Region

John Babbage: Funny how after writing an arrangement, the title, being an anagram of the original, fits so aptly with a smeared Beatles melody, sub-bass and synth.

11. Black to Grey

Robert Davidson: Deep Purple and Visage have an unlikely union in Nashville, with side trips to '60s California. Putting rock and new-romantic things together seemed an attractive idea, and I always wanted to hear that Deep Purple riff as if it were a country fiddling tune. I like the overlapping runs over the Steve Reich-like piano loop in the middle.

12. Lunamble

Robert Davidson: I always liked the space (haha) in this song, and the playful drumming. The Topology version, composed by Kylie Davidson, has hints of the Paris Conservatoire and delicate floral scents. The harmony gets changed around and the strings add plucks and tremolos.

13. Rotund Featherweight Teen Hog

Bernard Hoey: An old Peter Gabriel era Genesis classic that I've enjoyed for years, I've remained largely faithful to the original, while also trying to amplify the harmonic richness, and incorporate some additional rhythmic intricacies. This is the first Topology track to use a pipe organ.

14. Naima

John Babbage: A classic in the truest sense. More of a tribute track for some special people, so it did not warrant much “torturing”. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

15. One day, Gavin Stomach accidentally left his uvula at the Laundromat, which was very fortunate, as just that moment the giant pancreas ship that transported huge barrels of Lion Saliva Liqueur came crashing down on Darryl Briefcase’s left throat, causing a cheerful explosion in the Plastic Janet Laboratory adjacent to Brad Breath’s Gearbox Grove

Bernard Hoey: I took the famous MC Hammer eight note bass line as a kernel, and tried to build a forest of things around it. One prominent feature of the song is the use of poly-meters, where the different members of the group are all simultaneously playing in different time signatures, causing it to have a dizzying and disorienting feel. It is energetic, frenzied, and densely textured throughout, with a frantic, headlong and inexorable momentum. 

16. Tiptoe

John Babbage: Probably one of the all-time jazz “test” pieces. Just wish I didn’t write such a difficult etude to perform on saxophone.