Posted on September 22, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
I’d guess it would be equal parts flattering and terrifying to find yourself recording your debut album with two of jazz’s standard-bearers, but this is the situation Gordon Grdina (guitar and oud) finds himself in. Joined by Gary Peacock (bass) and Paul Motian (drums), the trio bands together to spin out a series of tracks that hold the smooth-rocking aura implied by the disc’s title close to heart. Grdina’s compositions are, by and large, contentedly paced affairs without any pushing or shoving among the players. A beacon of grace and fluidity, “Platform” serves as a representative case in point.
Posted on September 21, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
Vinny Golia, contrabass clarinet; Brian Walsh, Andrew Pask and Cory Wright, bass clarinet; Jim Sullivan, A clarinet and bass clarinet
Unless you’ve spent several semesters in a wind band, you probably have never realized just how many possible members there are of the clarinet family: they range from a high Ab clarinet all the way down to a contrabass. Multi-reed composer/improviser Vinny Golia plays all of them and on Music for Like Instruments: The Clarinets, he lets other folks in his ensemble in on the fun. Take Well Beneath The Sleeping Floor for the unlikely combination of four bass clarinets and solo contra. Okay, one of the guys occasionally pulls out a good ol’ A clarinet, but that only provides some temporary above-C-level relief to an otherwise really deep groove.
Posted on September 20, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
Feeling a severe lack of ring modulators in your life? The solution: Rothkamm’s FB02 – Astronaut of Inner Space. Echoing back to the likes of Isao Tomita, Rothkamm’s sine wave-heavy sound world is charmingly anachronistic compared with today’s typical laptop-slinging electronic musician. Part sci-fi, part microtonal utopia with a little Stockhausen peppered throughout, a glittering drizzle of tinkles and swells swirl around the ears, taking the listener off into orbit. Throw in a little Close Encounter of the Third Kind quote and there’s fun to had by all.
Posted on September 19, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
A couple of years back, the London Sinfonietta and the UK-based electronic label Warp Records teamed up to present concerts that linked the work of maverick composers such as Varèse and Reich with orchestrated versions of the big names on Warp’s roster—namely Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. This 2-CD release opens with two tracks from Aphex Twin which originally appeared on the album drukqs as work scored for MIDI-controlled Yamaha Disklavier. The prepared piano effect, here achieved by laying a chain across the strings of a traditional instrument, is just as compelling as the timbres conjured in the original. Though such electronic-to-acoustic translation is often attempted, it’s a rare achievement for the music not to loose something vital in the transformation.
Posted on September 18, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
Kathleen Nester, Svjetlana Kabalin, piccolos; Bart Feller, Paul Taub, flutes; Dianne Aitken, Patti Monson, bass flutes; Jeffrey Kraus, drum set; Donato Cabrera, assistant conductor; Robert Aitken, soloist and conductor
Henry Brant is one of those composers who tends to work with massive swathes of texture and sound, usually spreading musicians throughout a performance venue to create an all-encompassing spatial musical landscape. As soon as this CD arrived I played it right away, expecting to get lost in a sea of flutes. However, for this foray into new sonic territory Brant scales back on the number of performers, and the results are a little more sleek and nimble than his usual Super Bowl halftime show. Take Ghosts and Gargoyles for one soloist and an off-stage octet divided and situated around the corners of the concert hall. Add a drum set to this all-flute ensemble and you’re ready to go. Obviously there’s a certain homogeneity to the overall timbre, most of the time sounding a bit like a fragile pipe organ. Brant punctures these chorale-like passages with otherworldly sonorities using extended techniques, further juxtaposing his materials with some jazz drumming thrown in for good measure.
Posted on September 15, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
It’s too bad Cecil B. DeMille isn’t making those monster motion pictures any more, because Jay Greenberg’s Symphony No. 5 seems to mirror the director’s love of age-old storylines and gilded set pieces. There’s been plenty of grumbling about this newly anointed composer prodigy, but the truth of the matter seems to be that Greenberg is writing “classical music” that sounds like exactly what mainstream America expects it to sound like—sort of a distillation of Disney’s Fantasia. That’s not intended as a slight to his talent—considering the kid was born in 1991, that he can turn out such polished compositions (doesn’t hurt to have the LSO under Serebrier showing off your material, either) demonstrates that he’s a good study with an open and promising musical future. But let’s not make a judgment call on what that future will be before he starts speaking using his own voice.
Posted on September 14, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
While the prepared piano has had an illustrious history since John Cage first stuck screws and erasers into an upright back in 1938, the prepared guitar has always remained something much more home-grown. Take guitarist Jim McAuley, for example. On Gongfarmer 18, an album of original solos played on various instruments, he uses preparations on only one of the tracks, “Kneebounce,” for which he prepares the first guitar he ever played, a 1930s Marquette. While the resulting sounds are frequently quite un-guitarlike, everything used to generate them is at every guitarist’s disposal: picks, capos, tuning forks, albeit applied to the instrument quite differently than the original purpose for which these objects were conceived.
Posted on September 13, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
Leon Kirchner’s music walks a tightrope between tradition and innovation, but what keeps it all balanced in the end is the extraordinary care the composer shows to the performers. The melodic lines are always breathtaking yet playable, rapturous, angular, expressive, and always sound joyful to play. There’s nostalgia and angst in ample amounts, but the performers always have the opportunity to flaunt their technique without sabotaging the delicate flow generated by the music. Violinist Ida Levin and pianist Jeremy Denk wallow in the richness of the perpetual tension and release as Kirchner shapes a turbulent architecture which somehow conveys something tranquil.
Posted on September 12, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
Bandmates Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson met a little over a year ago at the Black Banjo Gathering held in Boone, North Carolina. With the guidance of fiddler Joe Thompson, they formed their band and sought to preserve and extend the regional music of both the local back and white communities. The focus of much of this music is on the voice of the banjo and the fiddle, as demonstrated in the disc’s opening track, “Starry Crown.” Go ahead, just try and sit still—I dare ya.
Posted on September 11, 2006 by NewMusicBox Staff - Listen, Tracks
Like listening to a Moog synthesizer on the verge of a nervous breakdown, trumpeter Jeff Kaiser and fellow circuit tinkerer guitarist Tom McNalley manage to coax electronic devices onto the couch of a shrink’s office. Erratic outbursts of electricity are carefully psychoanalyzed, counteracted with rationalized accompanying responses. As this heavily nuanced electronic latticework incorporates the more corporeally produced trumpet and guitar, the texture splinters at times and coalesces at others. In essence, this is one of those trippy albums that creep under your skin and completely alter you mood. Be prepared to leave through a different door than the one through which you entered.