Tara Clerkin Trio - In Spring


Photo Credit ~ Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Released - October 2021 Label - World Of Echo


'While You Were Sleeping...' presents a retrospective account of a project that has had time to marinate. This week sees us returning to Tara Clerkin Trio's 'In Spring'.


For a project to qualify as being on Bedroom Frequencies, the music must at once be meditative yet challenging, avant-garde yet melodic, cool yet emotive. In light of this, I was thrilled to discover Bristol’s Tara Clerkin Trio whose October 2021 release ‘In Spring’ has provided a sorely necessary expression of spiritual empathy with the dystopian apathy of the moment.


The last two years have seen a quiet resurgence in the use of microtonal dissonance and arrhythmia within jazz. UK artists like Nala Sinephro, Sam Gendel and Israel‘s Apifera have deftly incorporated a deliberate dose of musical discomfort juxtaposed against inoffensive beauty in order to subtly break new ground and provide new paths for artists to travel - techniques previously utilised by artists as diverse as Sun Ra and The Velvet Underground.


It is at this intersection of the subversive and the sublime that we encounter the sombre beauty of the Tara Clerkin Trio, who deftly blend the less dissonant but equally as original styles of Young Marble Giants and Broadcast combining it with jazz. The project opens as an unfolding bebop blues progression played on an old upright piano, steeped in characteristic hiss and microphone distance. The introduction transforms into a cleverly looped motif of itself and ushers in an ambivalent vocal, respectfully reminiscent of Broadcast's late, great Trish Keenan. As this eight-minute work develops, expertly performed dry cello, gentle horn and woodwind are injected, and contrasting live piano spirals over, into and back out of the original loop. Second track ‘Night Steps’ continues in the same vein as the opener with the addition of Augustus Pablo-inspired melodica, tape speed swells, and a gated halftime drum loop. ‘Memory’, the shortest track on the project begins as two moody organ swells that when accompanied by cello and clarinet create a strange soundscape of a cold view. The track develops slowly in intensity, never delving away from the two-chord motif but adding layer upon layer of clarinet, nervous cello, and piano, finally breaking at ⅔ of the way in with a deftly mixed trip-hop drum loop. What I am enjoying about this project is that the work feels un deliberate, as though the feelings expressed are wholly natural coming from either a place of experience or as a result of life’s current climate. The fourth and final track ‘In Spring’ opens as a re-occurring swell amongst daintily delayed piano trills. A heavily pitch affected vocal evolves into a siren and just as we feel that we can barely take any more tension, the challenging repetition blissfully disperses.


"It's Spring again, but it's true this time"


Tara Clerkin Trio are a wonderfully palatable sign of an emerging musical counterculture, and in order for a counterculture to form it requires a well-defined era to oppose. For me, ‘In Spring’ perfectly empathises with the shielding of my eyes against the sharply devolved, anti-enlightenment of the current status quo and I am thrilled to uncover such a group at such an early point in their development. The merging of jazz with avant-garde trip-hop is exactly what 2022 needs as the genres perfectly represent the inescapable confusion of emotion and intelligence trying desperately to re-connect in these troubled times.