Andrew Violette, keyboards; Gregor Kitzis, electric violin; Curtis Macomber, violin
I have been listening to this CD a lot over the past weeks. The music, a constant barrage of keyboard textures and soaring violin melodies, is dense and thick without much downtime through the 75 minutes. The twenty-two sections fall upon you like waves at the beach during a hurricane. At times, the sensation is glorious and enlightening. At other times, you just want to stop and catch your breath for a few minutes. But Mr. Violette is in charge here and he doesn’t want to stop Rave for anything. This isn’t music that gets stuck in your head, it is music that gets stuck in your mind.
The comparisons that you read about Mr. Violette’s music being a fusion of Messaien and prog rock are spot on. The emotions are big, the sonic walls that he places around you are enormous, and he is thoroughly committed to making this experience happen. He does not rave lightly.
As the onslaught of music went on, certain moments really stood out. Track 7, “Hollywood” takes all the textural and hectic noodling to an utterly gorgeous Romantic climax. It comes out of almost nowhere but, once it starts, you realize that everything you have been listening to has been inexorably leading to this moment. It is glorious.
After this moment, the next palpable shift is during tracks 12 and 13, where fragments of Beethoven’s 5th arrive in the violin. This quote does not feel as musically justified as the lush Romanticism of track 7, but I think that is part of the point (please note that if you put the CD into your computer you can read the 23 page thesis that describes each section in gruesome detail. I scanned through this but did not read the whole document. Yet.). Once the Beethoven motive enters, the tone of Rave changes. It is hard to put your ears directly on what or why this change has occurred because the texture remains constant throughout. And yet, there is a change. The rest of the work seems darker and more ominous. There is no further drive to another emotional peak like in tracks 1 – 7. Rave seems to dance madly onward but in a more disturbed manner.
Due to heavy amounts of overdubbing, there is a constant virtuosic piano scramble in the background. After a while the piano becomes this grey backdrop for the violins and almost ceases to have its own life anymore. I found it slightly disturbing that SO MUCH was going on in those pianos and yet taking it all in would have lead to my madness. On the one hand, this texture is brilliant because it is never-ending and never flinches, as you would expect from a rave’s energy. On the other, sometimes I wanted the pianos to shut the heck up for a minute and let me digest it all. I think that is the desired effect.
The performances on Rave are high caliber. Not too many people can put together such a solid 75 minutes of virtuosity. This piece will drive some mad and drive others to Nirvana (the place, not the band…although some might want to hear some Nirvana after hearing all of Rave…). I’m not sure where I am with it yet. It is almost too much to take in. The experience certainly hangs in my brain and haunts me at night. I think that Rave is an artistic success on many levels and, like a David Lynch film, everyone is going to walk away from the experience with something different. Rave is not for the squeamish, but those who take it on will be entranced.