Following on the heels of other recent releases such as родина and Temps Libre is pianist, activist, writer and CKUT radio host Stefan Christoff’s Wire Tones EP, inspired by the struggle against the expanding prison industrial complex in Canada. The thirteen and a half minute EP contains two instrumental tracks, both duos with contrabassist David Parker, which surround a trio track that adds the voice of Kim Pate from the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
“Beyond Justice,” the piece that features Pate, is a hard hitting critique of the policies that wastes taxpayer funds on incarceration rather than investing in social services, an adequate level of which might alleviate the need for so many prison cells. The words are plainly spoken in a matter-of-fact manner, which works to emphasize the logic of the argument.
The music on the three tracks match Pate’s plaintive text, with Parker’s slow bowing anchoring Christoff’s uncluttered melodies and trilling chordal sequences. The bass emits raspy shifting harmonics that evoke throat singing at times, while at other times resemble a passing plane, perhaps representing the elusive freedom as viewed from a prison yard. Indeed, the instrumental track titles, “Shifting Skies” and “Shafts of Light,” summon the longing for light and open air that are scarce commodities for those behind bars. The ebb and flow of the bass and the loneliness of the sparse piano lines further cement the musical themes to the spoken content, creating a coherent whole.
– Lawrence Joseph