Music Reviews

Anthony Pateras: Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Apr 01 2019
Artist: Anthony Pateras
Title: Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Immediata
This extensive 5CD, five-and-a-bit hour set methodically selects from Pateras’ back catalogue based on three categories, with either one or two discs for each. This has the effect of producing five compilation albums which have their own distinct character- you can certainly find a favourite disc and a least favourite disc- but which are fundamentally all based on the same principles- long, drawn-out avantgarde experimental and classical works blending organic and orchestral elements with some electronics and post-production trickery to generate long, drawn-out, deep and usually quite velvety sonic landscapes that are writ large and explored in detail.

First disc “Solo & Electronics [A]” represents some of the more ‘cosy’, intimate works, a collection of warm ten-minute drones and melodic blankets that- with the exception of the slightly squealy “Burning Is The Thing”- is decidedly relaxing and welcoming. “Solo & Electronics [B]”, the fourth disc, is perhaps a touch more sinister, with pieces like “Rules Of Extraction” making heavy use of high-pitched teeth-gritting tones that cut straight to discomfort and alienation. “TamTam +”’s low hum and distant industrialism is a highlight, as is the back-and-forth of electronics with Jessica Aszodi’s soprano vocal work in “Prayer For Nil”.

Second disc “Improvising Ensemble [A]” is slightly more purist, consisting of only two pieces, one of them over fifty minutes long, in which the live ensemble paints waves of sound that ebb gently and woozily. It’s reminiscent of Lygeti in parts, as is “Artifacts Of Translation”. Shorter piece “As Long As Breath Or Bow” has the edge though, with a masterful twenty-minute display of slow tension building. By contrast “Improvising Ensemble [B]” is made up of more impulsive pieces, such as the almost cheekily delivered and playful “Onetetradecagon”, certainly the most fun-to-play piece in this set- although the various parts of “Fragments Splinters & Shards”, which exhibit more of a leaning towards modern electronica, must also have been up there.

Third disc “Trios” opens with a series of short works for vibraphone and antique cymbals, a high-pitched and strangely itchy anti-groove affair. The first longer work has the same spiky tone transposed onto guitar and prepared piano, leaving “Three Mirrors”’s unusual interplay of eccentric saxophone work with electonic clicks as the most palatable part of arguably the least accessible disc.

I was thoroughly swayed by the opening disc and there’s a wealth of long, in-depth pieces to really get your teeth into here. It’s not all spectacular- the “Trios” disc in particular left me a little cold- but otherwise it’s a broad and very respectful anthology of work from a prolific composer with character.

Anita Brevik conducting the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir/TrondheimSolistene: Lux

 Posted by Steve Mecca   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 26 2019
Artist: Anita Brevik conducting the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir/TrondheimSolistene (@)
Title: Lux
Format: SACD (Super Audio CD)
Label: 2L Records (@)
Rated: *****
When I receive a "new classical" music CD I always feel some anxiety; I'm often a bit out of my element and feel that I won't adequately be able to review and convey the work(s) as well as those who've had years of acquaintance with modern classical under their belts. 'LUX' allays that anxiety by presenting works that do not fall into the avant-garde, and speak more to the heart than to the intellect. Three works are to be found on this album, two by Norwegian composer Stale Kleiberg - "Hymn To Love," and "The Light," and one, "Requiem," by British composer Andrew Smith. The artists involved in realizing these compositions are the Norwegian artists, the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir, under the direction of Anitak Brevik; TrondheimSolistene (strings); Ståle Storløkken (organ); Petra Bjørkhaug (organ); and Trygve Seim (saxophones). The real stars though are the glorious voices of the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir. Through much of this it was difficult to keep tears from welling up in my eyes, and as jaded as I am, that doesn't happen very often.

'Lux' was commissioned from the composers to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of Nidaros Cathedral Girls’ Choir (Nidarosdomens Jentekor) in 1992. The centerpiece (sandwiched in-between Kleiberg's compositions) is Smith's "Requiem," loosely based on the Roman Catholic mass for the dead, which takes up almost 46 out of 70 minutes of the album's length. Some of the texts in the traditional Requiem Mass have been replaced with biblical references to children in dire circumstances, in order to reflect modern tragedies in which the young are innocent victims, such as terrible massacres at Utoya and Oslo in 2011, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and the 2018 massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. "Requiem" may seem like an odd choice for a 25th anniversary celebration, but once you hear it, you'll be enraptured by its beauty and sadness. Although the musical material in the Requiem takes its inspiration from Gregorian chant, Trygve Seim's emotive saxophone lends a modern touch that does much to contemporize the work, and even the organ parts played by Bjørkhaug have a more modern sound than traditional "churchy" solemnity. The choir sings in Latin, but there are English and Norwegian translations in the booklet. The girls' vocals are glorious and in combination with the splendid saxophone are sublimely moving. Anita Brevik must be commended on her excellent arrangement and conducting skills as well, synthesizing the voices of these young women into something heavenly and ethereal.

Kleiberg's "Hymn To Love," which open the album takes its lyrics from the biblical 1st Corinthians 13, 1-13 - "If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love..." and is sung in English. The Trondheim Soloists strings are pervasively expressive in this piece, and the composition is the perfect opener for 'Lux,' where an uplifting sense of hope and joy (which it most certainly conveys) is needed for what follows. Kleiberg's "Light" which closes the album features more of the Trondheim Soloists than the Girls' Choir, as it is nearly six minutes before the voices come in, and the piece is less than 10 minutes long. For me, this was the weakest part of the album, but it was still in keeping with the concept.

The sound of course is superb and gorgeous, even just on the SACD which I listened to for the review. The second disc is a part Blu-ray audio, part data disc. It contains a 2.0 LPCM mix, a 5.1 DTS mix, a 7.1.4 Auro 3D presentation, and a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos version that will play on home theaters that support a normal 7.1 configuration. Audiophiles should be in ecstasy over this.

Suplington: After Life

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 15 2019
Artist: Suplington
Title: After Life
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Youngbloods
Forming part of Youngbloods’ Spring Programme for 2019, Nakula Fogg as Suplington has offered up a fairly safe-sounding blend of ambient and avant-garde classical built from freeform elements, mostly plaintive violin and gentle percussion, generally served up on a bed of warm synthetic hum to create a sonic salad that’s mostly quite familiar-sounding and unchallenging, organic and fairly tasty.

“Limbo State” is a highlight, a very measured and balanced offering that explores empty space to strong effect and where the richness of the orchestral or pseudo-orchestral sounds can really breathe. This contrasts well with the glooper, more underwater textures in following track “Sore Eyes”.

At times though it does slip into cliché, with the wind chimes and seagull sounds of “Seagulls In Your Mind” drifting, particularly at first, perhaps too close to New Age meditation CD’s you might find in the kind of shops in Whitby that burn incense throughout the day.

It’s a calming, thoughtful and introspective work, but somehow it seems to stick on a single emotional note for too long, leaving me feel a little disengaged and cold about it.

Alder & Ash: Clutched in the Maw of the World

 Posted by eskaton   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 05 2019
Artist: Alder & Ash
Title: Clutched in the Maw of the World
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
Rated: *****
Alder & Ash is the work of Montreal-based artist Adrian Copeland, and I had previously reviewed his first album, “Psalms for the Sunder.” On that release, I felt that he played it a bit too safe and didn’t take as many risks musically, so I was interested to see how this album would play out, knowing that this was his second album. Like “Psalms for the Sunder,” this album features some well-constructed, pretty compositions. Thankfully, however, this one is more interesting from an experimental standpoint. For example, “A Seat Amongst God and His Children” has a touch of distortion and is not trying so hard to be pretty, with lots of fast, high-pitched runs on what sounds more like a violin than a cello. I also enjoyed the more slow, melancholy tracks like “Clutched in the Maw of the World” and “The Glisten, the Glow.” For me, though, the standout tracks were “The Great Plains of Dust” with its martial feel, harsh dissonance, and distorted strings and “Seeds of a Sallow Earth,” which provides a good case for negative space, where keeping things sparse kept things interesting through the use of quiet passages. Overall, this is a good direction for Alder & Ash and it was nice to see the evolution of this artist. If you are looking for some experimental cello, this is one to check out. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes and is limited to 150 copies.

Alder & Ash: Psalms for the Sunder

 Posted by eskaton   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 05 2019
Artist: Alder & Ash
Title: Psalms for the Sunder
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
I had not previously heard this artist, but the bio states that “Alder & Ash is cello taken to its absolute extremes of calm and violence. Montreal-based instrumentalist Adrian Copeland brings together elements of modern classical, noise, and doom, exploring the dichotomies of minimalism and maximalism, stillness and cacophony, terror and chaos.” This seems like a lot to live up to. I have previously reviewed some acts that take the cello in interesting directions and frankly it is a beautiful instrument, so I was interested to see what Copeland does. As a whole, much of this would be right at home on any classical station, and that was kind of the problem for me. It was well executed and well composed, but it didn’t seem to really take a lot of chances. I like some noise and weirdness in my classical when I am reviewing for ChainDLK. That’s not to say that there were not some moments where it got interesting. For example, I really enjoyed the thudding bass and dissonance of “At Night in the Slaughterhouse” and the use of the cello as a percussion instrument (while distorting it nicely) in “Children of Gomorrah.” For me the standout tracks were “Black Salt,” which featured rough strumming and a bit of cello abuse as Copeland alternates between calm passages and ragged intensity, and “Seen Through the Cedar Smoke,” which combined gritty chamber music with world music flavor. I could see this as a good introduction to experimental classical for someone who is just ready to dip their toes into the water. It is clear that Copeland is an excellent musician, and it will be interesting to see how his work evolves. This album weighs in at around 29 minutes.
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