[REVIEW] Parkside – Hilary Geddes’ sonic exploration

The places we have inhabited hold a wealth of memories and with it a depth of emotion that has the power to transport us back in time. Often natural spaces, places of ritual, creative expression and community, places of beauty, devotion and connection take on a spiritual reverence, irrespective of creed.

Hilary Geddes takes us on a tour through places of significance to her on her quartet’s debut album Parkside. Through her sonic exploration of these places, we get a picture of an open-minded artist with a range of musical interests. Lush harmonies, textural soundscapes, minimalist inspired composition, instrumental virtuosity, and blues-soaked rock guitar are some of the colours Geddes uses to paint these vivid landscapes in sound.

Geddes is equally comfortable using her guitar to evoke ambient spacious soundscapes as she is weaving single note melodies through complex chord changes, generating raucous energy through angular lines and overdriven rock solos.

Hilary Geddes performing at SIMA’s ‘Jazz: NOW’ program

Each piece on this concept album has a distinct mood. Individual voices give way to a collective identity in service of the compositional vision. Geddes’ sympathetic collaborators (Matt Harris on piano, Max Alduca on bass and Alexander Inman-Hislop on drums) perfectly capture her intended aesthetic.

‘Dechanatstr.’ opens the album on an expansive vista; the languid melody is reminiscent of Icelandic rock band Sigur Ros. This expressive, ‘rolling rubato’ style permeates much of the album. Billy Strayhorn meets Paul Motian on Geddes’ ballad ‘Dalkeith’. The combination of guitar and piano, rather than getting in each other’s way, seems to set both players free. Harris dances playfully around Geddes, who revels in the rich harmonies he creates.

‘5am’ is what Nels Cline would call a ‘squib’, a short motive that ignites the freewheeling improvisation that follows, showcasing Alsuca and Inman-Hislop’s formidable up-tempo swing feel. Geddes draws on her experience playing in punk rock band ‘The Buoys’ on her piece ‘Silos’ which calls to mind Bill Frisell’s own grimy urban number ‘Blues for Los Angeles’.

Geddes does not shy away from using the guitar as a compositional tool, leaning into the idiosyncrasies of her instrument and exploiting its strengths. She relishes in the resonate open chords on her solo piece ‘102’ that closes the album.

Hilary Geddes performing at the 2021 Earshift Music Fest

Parkside is out through ABC Jazz made possible by the Jann Rutherford memorial award of which Geddes was the 2020 recipient. Rarely do we hear such a clear artistic concept from a musician’s first solo release. This album gives us a snapshot of the many facets of this eclectic artist, it will be exciting to watch her develop and grow in the years to come.