On October 25th, Constellation Records will release Entanglement, the second solo release by Jessica Moss. A violinist and vocalist who is one of the central members of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and co-founder of Black Ox Orchestar, Moss draws upon a prodigious range of influences: from the post-rock and avant-klezmer of the aforementioned groups, to drones and loops reminiscent of post-minimalism. Over the past year, she has honed the material of Entanglement at over eighty concerts, developing a side-long piece, “Particles,” and a suite of four “Fractals.” Impassioned, moody, and slow-burning, her compositions are some of the most compelling fare we have to anticipate this Fall.
Canadian instrumental post-rock leftist collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor brings something old and something new to the musical anti-fascist fray on Luciferian Towers, their latest recording for Constellation. They are still angry at the political establishment (as are many of us). But they are REALLY angry. Composition titles such as “Bosses Hang,” “Fam/Famine,” and “Anthem for No State,” are bracing sentiments, ones that seem all the more resonant with the determined opposition movements that on the political left the have been emboldened in the wake the double punch of the 2016 election and Charlottesville.
Early GSY!BE output relied on, indeed did a great deal to codify, a certain formula for post-rock: pieces contained one long hairpin crescendo from pianissimo to fortississimo primarily focused on drone-based textures. A penchant for minimalism and martial rhythms remain, but the group’s approach is more texturally varied. True, this time out there aren’t field recordings, but album opener “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” (sic) does include free jazz horns. Bagpipes adorn the album’s closer. Throughout, guitars oscillate and repeat riffs with little wrinkles of variation. Most significantly, dynamics are varied rather than inexorably inclined, with piano sections lingering, forte sections juxtaposed with softer passages, and some of the music cannonading through without significant shading. These changes of shaping and form demonstrate the band’s significant musical development over time. Moreover, Luciferian Towers is a yawp of resistance at just the time that we need its cathartic power. Godspeed You! Black Emperor has created a record precisely for its time, and the Best Rock Recording of 2017.
Composer Randy Gibson is best known for his compelling experiments with intonation. R. Andrew Lee is the go-to pianist for Wandelweiser and minimalist-oriented music. On Gibson’s The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of The Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield 16 VIII 10 (Kansas City), he meets Lee in the middle, creating a mammoth work out of very restricted means. The pitch material of the piece consists of just seven notes: D in all the octaves on a concert grand piano in equal temperament. Added to this are amplification and a small amount of electronic manipulation, designed to add resonance to the overtone vibrations taking place.
Irritable Hedgehog’s recording is a single unedited live performance from 2016 at University of Kansas City Missouri, with electronics realized alongside the piano part. Clocking in at some three-and-a-half hours, Lee deserves credit for a tour de force of stamina, focus and, perhaps above all, musicality in shaping the repeating pitches into countless varied phrases. Gibson is a master of deploying overtones. He has figured out how to exploit the various spaces between D’s to gradate the appearances of the harmonic series’ upper notes, or partials, and to maximize their potential. Shimmering conglomerations of overtones abound in The Four Pillars … it is certainly not a piece just about D! And while pitch serves as a focal point, it is worth mentioning that the piece’s overall shape, labyrinthine in scope, and its localized rhythmic gestures are equally well conceived. Four Pillars is one of the most compelling pieces yet from Gibson, and is Sequenza 21’s Best Drone Recording of 2017.
Out this Friday (7/14) via Ghostly International, Patricia’s full length album Several Shades of the Same Color invites the listener into a warmly hued, artfully constructed minimal soundscape. Patricia is the recording name of Max Ravitz, a techno synthesist who has recorded three LPs under the moniker. His advice for listeners is similar to that of minimalist composers such as Philip Glass, LaMonte Young, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley.
Tip for listeners: consider the moment in which you exist; pay attention to how these sounds evoke physiological (rather than cognitive) responses ….
Philip Glass turned eighty years old today. A celebration was held at Carnegie Hall tonight, a concert by the Bruckner Symphony Linz, led longtime Glass collaborator conductor Dennis Russell Davies in the premiere of the composer’s Eleventh Symphony and Three Yoruba Songs (with vocalist Angélique Kidjo).
In Nashville tonight, I’m not hearing any live Glass alas, but I am enjoying a brand new recording by Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson. Philip Glass – Piano Works, his debut for Deutsche Grammophon, features interpretations of the Études and excerpts from Glassworks. The Siggi String Quartet joins the pianist on some of the music, reworked to incorporate strings. Both here and in the solo selections, Ólafsson brings to bear a supple sense of phrasing and wide-ranging gestural palette. His playing stands starkly at odds with the seemingly irrepressible notion that ostinatos serve as motoric cogs in a supposedly limited minimalist vocabulary. He finds 1,000 flavors of repetition. Anyone who wants an point of entry to or refresher course on Glass’s music need listen no further than here to find bold, dramatic interpretations of his work.
Prior to this recording, composer Paul A. Epstein was not a name known to me. There are so many vital creators out there that one must continue to search for them. Thankfully, R. Andrew Lee has recorded this disc for Irritable Hedgehog. It presents eight of Epstein’s compositions for solo piano: a delightfully diverse and stimulating collection.
In Will Robin’s excellently annotated liner notes, he points out that Epstein doesn’t fall neatly into the minimalist category. His interest in Sol LeWitt, Philip Glass, and TomJohnson notwithstanding, there are processes afoot in Epstein’s music that share an affinity with modernism. Thus, we hear motoric passages brushing up against piles of dissonance and non-tonal canons. Some processes of pitch and rhythmic manipulation demonstrate an awareness of serial approaches: Robin quotes post-minimalist composer and author Kyle Gann, who likens Epstein to “the Milton Babbitt of minimalism.”
Lee performs this challenging music nimbly, with extraordinary verve and impressive rhythmic accuracy. The pianist has steadily expanded his reach to include many composers from seemingly all corners of experimental music. While one savors this recording, it is also exciting to contemplate what Lee will come up with next.