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Percussionist Greg Harrison makes his Backward Music debut with i/Variations.

Paul MacDonald

When we think of drummers, melody isn’t often the first thing that comes to mind. But for some of the more creative musicians who have chosen to make rhythm their forte, exploring beyond the confines of the idiom is inevitable. On his latest release, i/Variations, percussionist Greg Harrison leaves his sticks in the bag and turns his attention to manipulated sounds and synth-generated swells. Making his debut with Halifax-based Backward Music, Harrison’s expansive auditory vision blends symphonic structures with sampled cymbal sounds and a touch of 80s synth pop. The resulting four-part composition rises and falls like a satisfying well told tale.

“I got a bit obsessed close-miking things,” said Harrison, explaining how some of the sounds on i/Variations were created.  “I was experimenting this technique with cymbals, which allows the low frequencies we don’t normally hear to come out on top.”

Using a violin bow instead of sticks or mallets, Harrison was able to generate and capture a diverse mix of sounds not commonly associated with the world of percussion.

“Since bowing gives a more fundamental and recognizable pitch, I started to realize that I could use this as melody,” he said.  “I ran these swells through various distortion effects and pitch shifting to create long phrases that blended well with the synth pads.”

Originally created as accompaniment for a dance performance by the Toronto based Form Contemporary Dance Theatre through which dancer Mateo Galindo Torres and visual artist Carlos Delgado explored concepts related to individuality, i/Variations was first performed at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre in January 2017 and again in February at The Citadel in Toronto.

“I was super happy with the result and decided to release it as a stand-alone album,” said Harrison.

Harrison will perform i/Variations as part of FUZE 2017, August 12 and The Capital Complex in Fredericton.

i/Variations will be released July 28, 2017 via Backward Music. Pre-orders now available.

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