Music Reviews

Artist: Damon Waitkus (@)
Title: Anxiety
Format: CD
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
Damon Waitkus is a composer who uses found sounds and home-made musical devices in conjunction with traditional instruments to craft an intriguing brew of experimental sound that draws heavily on contemporary classical and rock influences. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, he has studied with Fred Frith, Alvin Curran, and many other notable instructors. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. His debut release, "Anxiety," presents six richly diverse tracks that cover an astonishing range of sound and feelings. The disc begins with the title track, an aptly-titled twenty two minute odyssey that focuses heavily on interplay between various percussion sources (including piano and wine glasses) and stringed instruments, and features violinist Emily Packard and cellist David McNally as collaborators. There are bleak valleys and lulls, tense peaks of sound, deliciously discordant string squabbling, and a wondrously uneasy miasma of moaning that halts abruptly just before the track ends. Next is the fantastically titled "How, over years, the nose may hook, as presaged by occasional flares in character." Guitarist Jacob Kramer contributes a pleasantly mellow segment of fret-exploration on this tune. "Transmit 1" moves in an entirely different direction, with ominous chords from the piano jostling for position with a low, windy howl and bird-like sounds that are eventually chased off by an insistent and almost sensually urgent band of unidentifiable aroused beasts! Another corner is turned in "Bas-relief," which pits the oboe of Meave Cox against the soprano sax of Jonathan Russell. The two instruments playfully tussle over who'll lead the dance in this perky little harmonious gem. The mood shifts again entirely in "You Are Vulnerable," with Waitkus retreating briefly into a somewhat aloof posture. "Transit 2," the closing piece, crawls slowly back out of the shell, with a more menacing feel than any of the other tracks. The shower of tinkling highs and murmuring lows emanating from the piano are sufficient to tighten the gut a bit, like the anticipation of some unsuspecting sap about to "get it" in a horror flick. An excellent effort!

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