Gregory Tan is a Singaporean composer living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as working as an in-demand sessions player, he composes for a music licensing site that supplies music for many commercial ventures, from HBO television shows to fast food ads to Disney films. So I guess that it’s fair to say that Tan knows a fair bit about instrumental music.
And so he should. He’s completed the ABRSM Violin Syllabus, and recently obtained a certificate of Specialisation from Berklee College in Blues, Classic Rock and Jazz guitar.
Tan is no slob, having studied music at high levels, and writing music for his profession. His recent EP, Far And Away, features four beautifully crafted instrumental tracks.
Far and Away sounds more deliberate than many other post-rock releases, with every song capped around the four minute mark. Often post-rock suffers from being too drawn out, with long slow build ups being broken by clichéd crescendos. The four songs, each starting with “A”, are meant to evoke a sense of wandering and escapism without resorting to the same old stale trends we associated with post-rock.
“Afterthought” commences with deliberate drumming that lay the path for some wondrously uplifting sleepmakeswaves-esque guitar riffs. The layers build up joyous harmonies that add life to the rigid drums. The mood lifts and wanes dynamically, never quite staying still long enough to be predictable.
The reverberating chords in “Avalon” set a light ephemeral feel, with the percussive bright cymbals, snare rolls and tom toms providing the skeleton. The song races and explodes with energy at times.
“Atlas of Dreams” sounds somewhat unsettling, with frantic shrill strings chiming in, although lovely tone. Tan shared with me that “Far And Away was created with the intention of combining dissonant melodies with progressive arrangements to evoke a sort of atmospheric tension”, and you can hear that combination of beauty and danger evident here.
The most cinematic sounding track is “Autumn Crossing”, with swelling pads and a galloping tribal beat. As it picks up there is a definite Dorena feel, and I can picture sprites leaping about in the wilderness, although there is an underlying ominous presence as well, with dark simmering china cymbals and a forlorn violin being played in the background.
At first listen, Tan’s previous release, Ostinato, was about as literal as the term modern-classical could denote. The compositions were clearly written as a form of homage to the classical greats, but with in-your-face tones played on electric instruments. By comparison, Far and Away is more subtle, and less rooted in classical style, with more modern post-rock leanings.
By using his diverse compositional knowledge and combining old and new instrumental styles, Tan has created an EP that takes the listener on an exciting journey that seems familiar, but takes constant unexpected turns.
Far And Away can be found on here