Ant Law Trio executes dazzling Oxford edict

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Guitarist Ant Law has made two very well received albums and toured with quintets, so it’s a new departure for him being out on the road with only drummer Asaf Sirkis and double bassist Conner Chaplin, the latter recently heard in Oxford as part of Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur. But rather than detracting from the complexity and catchiness which is becoming the trademark of Law’s compositions, the relative sparseness of the trio format seems to enhance his music by revealing the structures and rhythmic twists in a more intimate crystalline form.

The intimate vibe is augmented by the beautiful venue, the recently renamed chapel of the Warneford Hospital, where the audience almost sits in Chaplin’s hip pocket. Such closeness makes it easy to observe the fascinating dynamic between Law and Sirkis in particular. Not only is their playing responsive to each other, but their eye-contact, glances and smiles are too. It’s also noticeable that the volume of Law’s gorgeous guitar is less than that of Sirkis’s drums, even when the percussionist, who hit the skins hard, plays comparatively quietly. The result is a series of unusual tones and colours.

The set starts with a gently propulsive version of ‘Entanglement’, a number inspired by the orbital dance of Janus and Epimetheus, two moons of Saturn, which is punctuated by a fierier passage, before subsiding into a meditative mood. It finishes with ‘Trivophobia’ with its teasingly jokey riffs. Inbetween we get ambient, a dose of jazz rock and a couple of spectacularly fast solo’s from Sirkis, his sticks a blur.

In a fresh move for Law we also get some South Indian voice percussion – Konnakol – a mutant form of beat box heavily-influenced by the rhythms of that region. Sirkis starts it off, Law joins in and then the instruments take up the pulse. The second of these cuts, ’Kanda Jhati’, is the highlight of the set, with the impressive Chaplin also getting his fingers around some fiendishly difficult off-the-beat double bass lines.

While the trio’s music is complex – living up to the Art Of Rhythm title of the tour – each piece has an appealing hook that draws the listener in. This is an exciting venture from Ant Law, and should his Arts Council supported tour be in your vicinity don’t miss the opportunity to go hear it.

– Colin May

– Photo by Sylwia Bialas