Label: Right Side left Records, 2019
Personnel - Kent O’Doherty: tenor and soprano saxophones; Gamelan gong; organ.
Kent O’Doherty is an Australian-born, US-based saxophonist/composer with a knack for imaginative storytelling. Alone, he composed and played Periville, an immersive double-disc soundtrack that describes a fictional small town in North America. Each disc contains 13 tracks that attempt to shape the places and characters of Periville with an arty, self-conscious vision.
“Small Town” can be seen as the town’s anthem, a solitary saxophone melody that, according to the author, ‘restores the faith of Periville’s residents’ after difficult circumstances. Also delineated by his warm-toned tenor, “The Pickup Truck” and “The Main Street” disclose Periville as a tranquil place, where people live quietly, far from any big-city hurly-burly.
The longest track on the record is “The Seasons”. The liveliness of the spring, for example, is comparable to the excitement of “Football Game”, the sports that strengthen the community. The avant-gardish approach on “Children and Birds” is also a joy and, on this occasion, there is harmony contextualizing the spirited soprano warbling. Pictures effortlessly come to our minds due to the power of sounds and the context provided by the description of each episode in the CD booklet.
I dare to say that Periville is to O’Doherty what Dogville was to Lars Von Trier. You’ll find drama, hope, but also sadness and melancholy since tragedy fell upon the city. That’s why “What Was Periville Before the Fire” conveys a tranquil bliss while “What Was Periville After the Fire” is filled with desolated sounds and piercing piano notes. The solo piano pieces, gentle pastoral washes of dismal color and classical nuance, always respond to questions of ‘what’ and ‘how’. Typically, conveying feelings related to fondness, disappointment, and nostalgia.
The people of the town are also very interesting, and if “Mayor Christina” arouses some curiosity and hope by offering overlapping reverberating soprano lines infused with electronic effects dancing on top of a slender drone, “Virginia” mixes brisk cascading moves with a few ponderous thoughts. Despite her possible hybrid personality, I found her more cheerful than “Miriam”, who made me think of solitude. The successful “Brian”, instead, is portrayed with a deep Gamelan gong providing a solid base for the nimble tenor activity, while “Chester, Frank and Edgar” is blown with a boppish orientation in a tribute to friendship and mutual aid. “Reverend Carlton”, a man of unshakable faith, and his unsatisfied and subversive son “Corey” are masterfully characterized. The former has a church organ chord sustaining methodical, stern, and fervent lines, perhaps associated with the reverend’s sermons, while the latter composition wraps the saxophone in a distorted effect, a symbol of anger against and repulse for the town and its inhabitants.
I couldn’t finish this review without mentioning the Surman-esque “Soda Shop”, whose mysterious reed organ voicings reinforce its ghostly existence as a product of the mind, and “Textile Factory”, a central element in the story, whose mechanical working flows force O’Doherty to come out of his shell through the usage of loops, counterpoint, and busy figures. It ends with the melancholy of its own ashes.
Conceptual and very cinematic indeed, this haunting Periville.
07 (disc1) - Mayor Christina ► 02 (disc2) - Soda Shop ► 05 (disc2) - Reverend Carlton