Simon Barker unveiled this band last year in an unforgettable concert at Campbelltown Arts Centre. While the music is improvised, it is he who “composed” the band, assembling the collective brilliance of these six musicians. Korean Pansori singer Il Dong Bae has previously collaborated extensively with Barker and often enough with guitarist Carl Dewhurst, pianist Matt McMahon and trumpeter Phil Slater. In an inspired decision Barker’s new addition was Riley Lee, whose shakuhachi offerings are as right as white clouds are against a blue sky. Indeed Lee almost seems the missing link in the concept’s evolution.
Barker has conceived of a series of smaller groups interacting within the sextet, and the ineffable sadness of the shakuhachi helps glue Bae’s searing contribution to the surrounding gentler music-making, just as Barker’s drums and percussion do in a very different way. But all is poetry here, so this album that will reveal treasures across many listenings. It is surely one of the high-water marks in Australian spontaneous composition, and has been vividly recorded and glowingly mastered.