Actions Speak Louder is an ambitious, three-CD set from Canadian composer Tim Brady that encompasses both older pieces reworked anew, and more recent compositions. Essential to Brady’s musical practice is his work as a solo electric guitarist as well as a composer for whom the recording studio is an instrument as well as a workspace; Actions Speak Louder represents both halves to good effect.
Disc One, Solos and a Quartet, is centered on Brady’s solo guitar work. The three-movement Simple Loops in Complex Time is very much marked by the electric guitar’s native sound, and has Brady stretching repeating patterns across changing time signatures. The four-movement The Virtuosity of Time inclines toward more purely electronic sound masses. It has a darker, more portentous and elongated character than Simple Loops, and yet in the overall context of the disc seems to extend rather than refute the sonic atmosphere of Simple Loops. The final piece on the disc is Uncertain Impact for guitar quartet, a vigorously hammered out work featuring complex rhythmic counterpoint, here performed by Instruments of Happiness (Brady along with Jonathan Barriault, Simone Duchesne, and Francis Burnet-Turcotte).
The second disc, and the highlight of the collection, contains Brady’s four-movement Triple Concerto: Because Everything Has Changed for electric guitar, violin (played by Helmut Lipsky), tabla and percussion (Shawn Mativetsky) and virtual orchestra. The latter frames and supports the soloists with swells of sound thanks to Brady’s masterful manipulation of dynamics and densities to create a dramatic backdrop for the three soloists’ improvisations. All three play with a sense of urgency, compressed energy and stamina appropriate to the emotional tensions expanding and contracting over the work’s forty-minute running time. It’s an exciting piece that represents one extremely fruitful way of composing a contemporary concerto with a modern sensibility, employing modern means.
The third and final disc contains two archival recordings which Brady re-presents through remastering or additional studio production. The earlier of the two consists of settings of six poems conveying the personal upheavals and emotional turbulence that accompany political revolutions, performed by soprano Nathalie Poulin and Brady’s Bradyworks ensemble of saxophones, piano, cello, percussion and electric guitar. The second piece combines samples of a documentary interview along with chorus, guitar and percussion in a concept work about destructive, covert drug experiments carried out by the CIA in Montreal in the 1960s.