Listening to John O’Gallagher’s "Abacus" reminded me of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, shadowy shapes that map the terrain of the unconscious. Kandinsky’s paintings used great splashes of rose, crimson, yellow, azure, emerald and deep purple, but whose abstraction contained symbolic images. The colors lure you in, the symbols keep you interested. Though a scene may be radiant in color, it is also filled with ominous and chilling images.
"Abacus" feels like fragments that twirl around your head when you are in that twilight space between being awake and drifting off into sleep. Some of thoughts and feelings are clear, brief impressions; others feel like nonsensical shadows that flit around dissonantly. "Abacus" is an ambitious, yet successful album that teeters between expressionist discord and graceful harmony. It is both intensely accessible and disturbing. This is an achievement because expressionistic meanderings can be simply difficult to listen to. On ‘Song,’ O’Gallagher takes Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘Serenade for Song’ and infuses it with bebop. The result is a framework for enjoying listening, but has an edge that verges on Schoenbergian dissonance. The bebop lures you in, the jagged edges keep you fascinated.
"Abacus" is an achievement.