This Alexander’s Annexe article was written by Stephen Butchard, a GIGsoup contributor
Ten years after its initial release, ‘Push Door To Exit’ is still just as unsettling, undecipherable and intriguing as it’s ever been. These thirty minutes of live music are the sole recording under the ‘Alexander’s Annexe’ name, a project born out of a collaboration between electronic tinkerer Mira Clarix, sound designer Paul Sheppard and pianist Sarah Nicolls. As a direct partnership between Warp Records and the London Sinfonietta , the diverging nature of the worlds which these artists pull from becomes immediately obvious. Yet, the fusion of these contrasting ideas is executed on record with obvious passion, experimental flare and surprising fluidity.
Once formed, the group were initially given backing by the Britten-Pears programme with a chance to seek residency. With this opportunity, the group explored and refined their ideas to create something that nails its foreboding atmosphere and cerebral appeal. Live shows in Rome, Berlin, Barcelona and Geneva followed, at venues as divergent as underground techno clubs and a classical music festival bearing Wagner’s name.
Collaborations of this sort are often fruitful, but it’s truly surprising how well these artist’s influences mesh together on record. Solely utilising piano sounds as it’s source, ‘Push Door to Exit’ is a mastery of sound manipulation. Every delicate note feels cavernous and brooding under a warped electronic lens. The detailed facets of this composition are jagged, ethereal and nebulous as each minute progresses, in a fluid melding of minimal and neo-classical textures that continue to be explored today. By artists such as Nils Frahm and Tim Hecker.
Unfortunately, as it is with many oddball collaborative projects, the piece can occasionally feel unbalanced and underwhelming. The composition stagnates occasionally from within the shadowy atmosphere, and there is a feeling that the nuance of Nicolls piano work becomes lost in the haze. With three admirable artists on the billing, there is an expectation of greatness that leads to disappointment when not fully reached.
Still, ‘Push Door To Exit’ remains just as admirable and explorable today, thanks to its boundary pushing view to sound design and free form compositional feel. It is projects such as this that keep experimental spirt alive. Although the execution falters, there’s something special in hearing artists of this calibre diving so deeply into collaborative artistry.