Prescience weighs heavily on Jono Podmore’s latest Kumo release. The three track EP was inspired by the Chinese year of the tiger, which began in February, and a conversation that Podmore had with his students at a tai chi class he was teaching the same day. When asked what the new year would bring, he believed it would be characterised by conflict; how sadly true it was.
In a typically calculated manner, the three tracks on his new release were composed using ancient Chinese harmonies. Being no musicologist, I’ll take Podmore’s word for it, just like I had to with the mathematical theories that begat his 2020 Euclidean Patterns release. What is immediately evident, even if you don’t know Chinese musical theory, is his intention to highlight that the tiger does not immediately need to refer to conflict.
Each of the tracks here is named for a different tai chi form, but are highly evocative in their own right. ‘Tiger Lies Down’ shimmers with heat haze and gauzy optimism, a recurring two-note melody having a calming, soothing, centring quality while a delicate outline of a rhythm provides a sense of firmness and purpose. Here the tiger is our inner spirit, full of latent potential and awakening into the world with sharp focus.
‘(Retreat To) Ride Tiger’ is that store of energy suddenly released, a crisp and clattering beat relentlessly moving forward beneath clusters of twisted tones, springy sequences and euphoric bursts of almost orchestral grandeur. There is defiance here – not anger, not an adversarial quality, but a determination and resolution.
‘Carry Tiger To The Mountain’ is about transcendence. Riding a tiger is easier than carrying one. Metaphorically, this is about overcoming obstacles and limitations. This is delivered by sinewy sine tones, clouds of white noise and a metallic arpeggio that slices through any sense of calm that may have existed at the start of ‘Tiger Lies Down’. If ‘(Retreat To) Ride Tiger’ was a call to action, ‘Carry Tiger To The Mountain’ does something similar, despite being free of rhythmic guidance, through a constantly fluctuating structure of unsettling sonic flourishes.
With Three Tigers, Podmore has once again shown himself to be a masterful arranger of conceptual, deep-thinking electronic music.
Three Tigers by Kumo was released March 21 2022.
Words: Mat Smith
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