Tansy Davies’ Star-way for solo synthesiser received its world premiere performance in London on 21 April, as part of the launch of Zubin Kanga’s new record Machine Dreams at Rich Mix cinema. Star-way was featured on BBC Radio 3’s New Music Show and is available to steam here. Machine Dreams is available to purchase as CD or download here. The album, released through Nonclassical, also includes tracks by Alex Paxton, CHAINES, Nwando Ebizie, Robin Haigh, Alex Groves, Jasmin Kent Rodgman, Ben Nobuto, and Amble Skuse.
The 10-minute work for solo synthesizer is written for the Prophet Rev2, an update to the original Prophet 08 analogue poly synth familiar from numerous pop and electro hits and whose notable exponents include Thom Yorke and Sufjan Stevens.
Star-way was commissioned by Zubin Kanga with the support of a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and Royal Holloway, University of London. Star-way is built on seven chords and the Prophet Rev2’s presets: rising, arpeggiated figures emerge from a rich, fruity bassline, making use of the complex interrelationship of timbre and dynamic integral to the instrument.
The piece is dedicated to composer Mira Calix, who passed away in March 2022. Davies’ used her name as the basis of musical material for the coda, which also hints at the influences of Conlon Nancarrow and Daft Punk.
Tansy Davies’s ‘Star-Way’ sinks into a calm and earthy vibe, filled with bubbly arpeggios and glistening droplets of sound, which Kanga draws from analogue synths.
The Quietus (Antonio Poscic) 21 April 2023
Star-Way, Tansy Davies’s pulsating, arpeggiated composition for the retro-analogue sounding Prophet Rev synthesiser, deftly conjured the atmosphere of vintage science fiction soundtracks. With a sound palette of pinging synths and crunch, bit-crushed, noise-based percussive timbres which could have been directly borrowed from 1978, her tightly focused composition explored the whole range of the instrument with waves of energy. Not only was this a sustained work of great beauty, but this live rendition by Kanga delivered its repeatedly rising and falling waves of sound with conviction and poise.
Planet Hugill (Florence Ann Maunders) 24 April 2023