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Peter Gregson – Patina Review

Presence in absence.

Sounds like…

Being classically cinematic without taking the obvious routes in.

The review

Cellist Peter Gregson is used to scoring movies and shows but when it came to his new album ‘Patina’ he had an interesting idea. Why not create music that focuses on the idea that something being absent, makes it present? The notion of ‘presence of absence’ took hold with ‘Patina’ and Peter Gregson’s fifth studio album was born.

When playing the nine tracks that make up ‘Patina’, the feeling of ‘something is missing’ applies to almost all of it. In the pensive longing of the cello lead and plucks strings of ‘Don’t Wake’, it is in the ethereal textures the strings play the background. In the opening bustle of ‘Hidden’, it is in the way the cello is used as a vocal piece to lead the way rather than the cascading symphonic strings piling in behind it. The rearrangement of volume shifts your focus from the dramatic to the serene instead. It’s as if the drama itself is hidden. It isn’t to say that there isn’t melody here, it is just not always obvious who is taking the lead. The idea behind ‘Patina’ is that it’s not a traditional hierarchy. One instrument can pull the rest with it and everything hangs loosely and moves with it like musical soup. It gives the music a free-flowing flexibility that you don’t often find in heavily structured cinematic music.

photo of Peter Gregson
Peter Gregson

My favourite sections of ‘Patina’ come from the tracks that incorporate 80’s synth arpeggiators though. In the title track, ‘Sense’ and ‘Sequence (Seven)’ all of the tracks bring pulsating electronica to the cello and strings. ‘Sense’ in particular shines as a fantastic example of a track living and breathing as each instrument grows power, depth and grace as it swells and expands audibly around you. It feels like a 360 degree echo location symphony. ‘Sequence (Seven)’ owes as much to the modular synth world as it does to the classical world and shines as a piece that rages without a forward-thrusting melody. Instead, the modular synth bleeps out of control as clouds of strings rumble into a lilting sigh underneath. Perhaps, where all of this comes together in the most joyous way is in the closing track ‘Continuum’. The track is airy, full of open energy and the synths float around you. The strings start off as the main power source of the track but the way they float away to a distant mirage feels like you are being musically washed clean. It’s really beautifully done.

Peter Gregson hits the sweet spot with synths and strings being manipulated into a collage of sound palettes. They both compliment each other and when the cello takes centre stage, the power of its voice reminds you that a melody can drive any musical story in any direction. ‘Patina’ is an exercise in using that voice sparingly so you can hear what surrounds that lead melody and it shows that absence can indeed be very present throughout music.

Recommended track: Sense

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Peter Gregson - Patina



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