Posts Tagged “Innova”

Towards DaybreakCD cover art

Billband

Music of Bill Ryan

innova records

Ashley Bathgate, cello; Vicky Chow, piano; David Cossin, percussion; Michael Lowenstern, bass clarinet; Pablo Mahave-Veglia, cello; Jonathan Nichol, saxophones; Todd Reynolds, violin; Paul de Jong, cello

  • Simple Lines
  • Towards Daybreak
  • Rapid Assembly
  • A Simple Place
  • Solitude in Transit
  • Friction
  • Sparkle
  • Blurred

Billband is another fine example of a post-minimalist/alt-classical chamber ensemble. Bill Ryan’s compositions fit the model well with direct and clear musical ideas well-paced and orchestrated for his mixture of performers. Whereas (gross generalizations follow, prepare yourself) Build draws from a jazz combo sound, Newspeak leans towards aggressive and edgy literature, and Victoire centers around a subdued synth-driven music, the Ryan/Billband sound world is heavily connected to a more traditional chamber music aesthetic with occasional bits of rock drumming deftly added to the mix.

As a composer, Ryan gets a lot out of a little. His penchant for simplicity (aside from appearing in several titles) makes for affective music making. Simple Lines is just that, good melodic gestures woven together using an overdubbed Ashley Bathgate. A Simple Place contains more surface action but it maintains attractive and clear emotional trajectories. Towards Daybreak and Sparkle are other contemplative pieces which paint clear aural pictures. Blurred uses copious piano pedal and reverb to gently smear an otherwise driving pulse towards its inexorable climax.

Ryan contrasts his contemplative nature with a handful of more groovy and driving works. Rapid Assembly starts with a thin groove which picks up speed and energy as the whole composition comes together. Friction jumps right in with a heavy rock groove. To my ears, it sounds like something someone is about to rap over but no real melodic material emerges until the drums subside and the whole piece quiets down. Even in his more driving works, Ryan has a delicate hand at orchestrating his ideas. Each instrument has not only its own musical space but also serves a vital role in creating a single ensemble sound. Most of the music utilizes strings, piano, and metal pitched percussion but the woodwinds are well balanced and blended in the group (expressively played by Lowenstern and Nichol). The whole of the Billband sounds great on this disc and I look forward to more releases.

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cd cover

 

PRISM Quartet

Dedication

innova records

Timothy McAllister, soprano saxophone; Zachary Shemon, alto saxophone; Matthew Levy, tenor saxophone; Taimur Sullivan, baritone saxophone

 

  • Roshanne Etezady: Inkling
  • Zack Browning: Howler Back
  • Tim Ries: Lu
  • Gregory Wanamaker: speed metal organum blues
  • Renee Favand-See: isolation
  • Libby Larsen: Wait a Minute
  • Nick Didkovsky: Talea, Stink Up! (PolyPrism 1 and 2)
  • Greg Osby: Prism #1
  • Donnacha Dennehy: Mild, Medium-Lasting, Artificial Happiness
  • Ken Ueno: July 23
  • Adam B. Silverman: Just a Minute, Chopin
  • William Bolcom: Scherzino
  • Matthew Levy: Three Miniatures
  • Jennifer Higdon: Bop
  • Dennis DeSantis: Hive Mind
  • Robert Capanna: Moment of Refraction
  • Keith Moore: OneTwenty
  • Jason Eckhardt: A Fractured Silence
  • Frank J. Oteri: Fair and Balanced?
  • Perry Goldstein: Out of Bounds
  • Tim Berne: Brokelyn
  • Chen Yi: Happy Birthday to PRISM
  • James Primosch: Straight Up

I don’t think there are enough words to describe the technical precision, the unity of sonic intent, the musicality, and the timbral facility present in the Prism Quartet’s playing. Fortunately for me, I don’t really need the words; I have this disc instead. These 23 compositions, all short and wonderfully focused, paint a wonderful aural picture of this amazing sax quartet. The slithering of Roshanne Etezady’s Inkling showcases the extreme fluidity of their sound and as soon as it is over – BAM – we are hit with the spiky and strident Howler Black by Zack Browning. Adam B. Silverman’s Just a Minute, Chopin is as tender and expressive as Gregory Wanamaker’s speed metal organum blues is not, yet Prism sounds like they were born to play both. Compositions using lots of extended techniques like Ken Ueno’s July 23… (the full title takes longer to read than it takes to listen to the piece) and Jason Eckardt’s A Fractured Silence are gorgeous and rich sounding. The composers’ voices are strong and resonant and Prism plays these works as if no effort was involved (the effort for these pieces is considerable). Frank Oteri’s Fair and Balanced? exploits Prism’s pitch and tuning control with his four microtonal movements. By the time the disc is over, you’ll think there is nothing the Prism Quartet can’t do. And you’d be right.

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Cornelius Dufallo 

Dream Streets

music for violin and electronics

innova Recordings

  • introduction
  • cosmic clouds
  • incantation
  • automaton
  • waiting for you
  • lighthouse
  • naiad
  • suite for electric violin
  • onefivesix
  • transcendence

Cornelius Dufallo’s Dream Streets is a sublime collection of music for violin and electronics. Expertly crafted, beautifully played, and something that I’m honestly ashamed that it has been out since 2009 and I’m only now getting acquainted with it. The first seven tracks form a seamless cycling journey through a variety of moods and textures with very deftly deployed electronics. Most of the electronic touches fall in the categories of  reverb and looping as well as some ambient soundscape accompaniments. Dufallo is no stranger to genre-crossing string+electronics settings and every moment on this disc is perfectly placed. I never felt like “oh, here is the section where he builds up a lot of loops” even though there are clearly sections where he does just that. Those moments contain a momentum that many other loopers lack and, in “Waiting for You,” Dufallo hits us with an enchantingly simple and catchy tune. A wise man once said “Reverb is like garlic; too much is just enough” and it is clear that Dufallo feels the same way. And still, reverb is an active tool. Dufallo uses it when it is most effective and builds up a three-dimensionality to his soundworld by drying out the solo lines for contrast.

Dufallo’s Suite for Eleectric Violin is edgier and more overtly abstract and artificial. Still, he chisels out distinct sound worlds that draw you into ornate and vibrant environments. Each of the six movements is a world in and of itself and the Suite still comes across as a single organic whole. Onefivesix is a brief and haunting gem weighing in at only 1:49. On the one hand it is so perfect as it is, on the other I wish the music would go on. It does lead well into the final track, Transcendence which shimmers and ripples with Paganini-style arpeggios. The harmonic language, while firmly tonally rooted, throws some most welcome curveballs and the manic bow work sounds free and easy as it smears into broad colors.

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CD cover art Beta Collide

Psst … Psst!

Innova

Molly Barth, flutes; Brian McWhorter, trumpet/flugelhorn; David Riley, piano/celesta; Phillip Patti, percussion.

  • Mysteries of the Macabre – Györgu Ligeti (arr. Beta Collide)
  • Mollitude – Frederic Rzewski
  • Trio – Valentin Silvestrov
  • Memories of an Echo – Robert Kyr
  • Nanosonata No. 7 + Mollitude – Frederic Rzewski
  • Waterline – Stephen Vitiello
  • Kryl – Robert Erickson
  • Nanosonata No. 7 – Frederic Rzewski
  • Yellow – Stephen Vitiello
  • Nude – Radiohead (Beta Collide Remix)

Psst…psst! is an amazing collection of music and performance by the quartet Beta Collide.  Each performance is virtuosic yet effortlessly musical.  Each piece chosen for the disc suits the instrumentation well and the variety of works performed highlights the performers’ own mercuriality.  Their arrangement of Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre is wonderfully energetic and manic.  I honestly prefer their take on it over the original.

Beta Collide presents a “Rzewski Sandwich” in the solo flute work Mollitude, Nanosonata No. 7 for piano, and combining both pieces in the aptly named Nanosonta No. 7 + Mollitude.  The Silvestrov Trio for flute, trumpet, and percussion is delivered in a sparkling fashion.  Haunting pieces like Waterline and Yellow flow with the same effortless sound as the more flashy and chaotic works.  I am especially enamored with Memories of an Echo by Robert Kyr as an achingly beautiful duet for flute and trumpet.

Closing off the disc is a remix of Radiohead’s Nude. Their spin on this track is, in many ways, the antithesis of their arrangement which began the CD.  Their brief meditation is governed more by a contemplative mood than raw energy.

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Ballad Nocturne  

Music of Ann Millikan

Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra

Grigor Palikarov, conductor

Innova Records

  • Ballad Nocturne (with Emanuele Arciuli, piano)
  • Trilhas de Sombra
  • Landing Inside the Inside of an Animal

Ann Millikan’s music is a wonderfully eclectic mix of several contemporary compositional styles and yet Millikan retains an individual and consistent voice throughout each work on this Innova CD.  Ballad Nocturne, (2009) for piano and chamber orchestra, puts jazz harmonies and figurations through a Druckman-esque prism.  Neither straight-ahead jazz nor purely-abstract instrumental music, this piece encapsulates Millikan’s musical personality: that of a synthesizer.  Disperate elements flow together and mix in seamless compositions.  Around the 8 minute mark of Ballad Nocturne, time simply stops as high strings and a repeated high piano figure float over a slightly-disturbed walking piano bass.  The piece switches gears from pseudo-lounge to Morton Feldman without dislocating the listener’s eardrum.  Instead of ending the piece at this moment, which I fully expected, a more traditional jazz ballade lugubriously emerges and clarifies everything we’ve heard previously with the subdued juxtaposition of earlier elements.

Perhaps jazz transformations aren’t your thing.  No worries there, because the orchestral triptych Trilhas de Sombra, (2009) a programatic work based upon a story written by Millikan’s niece, feeds any needs you have for good ol’ American atonal expressionism.  Except, of course, when Millikan doesn’t need such language to express the ideas in the story.  Gestures and textures tend to abound instead of melodies but the music is still a cohesive unit that moves in a single, unified direction.  The melodies that emerge are long and fluid and showcased with solid and direct orchestrations.  Millikan doesn’t get caught in the trap of being overly clever and instead crafts a wonderfully picturesque and programatic work and like many great programatic orchestral showcases, Trilhas de Sombra doesn’t come across as a movie soundtrack without the visuals.  Unabashedly contemporary in sound, this is an approachable and enjoyable work that does not condescend to the listener.

Millikan has been flexing her synthesis muscles in the previous two works and the final composition, as one would expect, merges elements from the previous two (even though it is the earliest piece on the disc – 2008).  Landing Inside the Inside of an Animal is just as trippy and fun as the title might suggest.  I don’t know how to land “inside the inside” of something, nor do I wholly understand how the spacey, abstract, atonal music of the first half relates to the Afro-Cuban inspired dance rhythms that drive the second half.  I also don’t know how this all ties into the “story of initiation” mentioned in the program notes.  You know what?  I don’t care that I don’t know how this works.  It works. Being a fan of WTF moments in compositions, Landing Inside the Inside of an Animal hits me right where I live.  This piece is a journey but, unlike Trilhas de Sombra, there didn’t seem to be a predetermined path to follow.  It is as if Millikan just struck out to go somewhere and ended up in the most wonderful and fantastic places.

I do have one problem with this disc.  While the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra sounds great on each piece, it really irks me that such purely American music written in the last 2 years had to be outsourced for the recording.  I should think that American orchestras would be falling all over themselves to perform and record Millikan’s output.

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thelema trioThelema Trio

Ward De Vleeschhower, piano; Peter Verdonck, saxophones, and Marco Antonio Mazzini, clarinets

Music by Junchaya, Lee, Carpenter, Honor, Mazzini, Walczyk, and Benadon

innova records

  • Rafael Leonardo Junchaya – Tres Danzas Episkénicas
  • HyeKyung Lee – Shadowing
  • Keith Carpenter – The Devil His Due
  • Eric Honour – neither from nor towards
  • Marco Antonio Mazzini – Imprevisto
  • Kevin Walczyk – Refractions
  • Fernando Benadon – Five Miniatures

The Thelema Trio’s modular nature, even within the context of being a trio, is one of its primary strengths and they  strut their stylistic, coloristic, versatile stuff with this collection of pieces.  No two works share the same instrumentation nor do any of the compositions share the same sound world.  The only performer not showcased with a solo feature of some sort is the pianist but Ward De Vleeschhouwer is a superb collaborative artist who can highlight his abilities within a chamber music setting.  Peter Verdonck has excellent tone and energy on alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones and Marc Antonio Mazzini has a lithe and supple sound on standard or bass clarinet.  Together, the two reed players have a perfectly communal sound quality.

Each piece on the disc showcases the Thelema Trio’s mercuriality.  Rafael Leonardo Junchaya’s Tres Danzas Episkénicas is equal parts sultry, ethereal and playful.  This work uses the most instruments overall with the reeds changing from bass clarinet to clarinet and use of baritone and tenor saxophones.  Overall, these dances are attractive, slightly thorny pitch language and extremely well orchestrated.

HyeKyung Lee’s Shadowing is a canonic/imitative work for clarinet and alto saxophone.  Long melodic lines weave in and out with sinewy and twisty motions.  The blend between the performers is spot on and the whole piece has great long-term trajectory.  The high climax reached early on in the work is the exact right music at the exact right time.  Keith Carpenter’s raucous The Devil His Due for baritone sax and piano is a punchy, aggressive, and energetic toccata for the two instruments.  Instead of the baritone sax being the “front man” of the piece, both instruments engage in funky rhythmic interplay.

The title track on the CD, neither from nor towards, is an extended rhapsody for baritone sax, clarinet, and piano written by Eric Honour.  This obsessive piece spends a lot of time spinning its wheels (in a good way) where the music is, indeed, neither from anywhere nor moving towards anywhere.  Long overlapping tones in the reeds and mid-range piano are broken by the occasional spiky piano accents in extreme registers.  Gradually a melody emerges and by the halfway point we are in a soaring, melodic section.  The soaring becomes frenetic, dies down, but then trashes around with one last outburst.  If you were to drop in on any single section of the piece, you might wonder how it all fits together.  But listening to the complete work, Eric Honour draws an excellent through-line.  The programming for this piece is perfect since it showcases not only the coloristic blend between the reeds but also the rhythmic punctuation possibilities found in earlier works.

The only solo composition on the disc, Marco Antonio Mazzini’s Imprevisto sounds like music we aren’t really supposed to be hearing.  The slow unfolding work for clarinet gives the impression that we are eavesdropping on the performer while they worked out musical/emotional stuff.  This piece is haunting and captivating.  Refractions, by Kevin Walczyk, brings back some playful and bouncy music back to the disc.  The motoric repeated notes in the piano provide a platform for melodies and shapes in the alto sax and clarinet.  The energy is constantly pushing forward, even when the music slows and becomes more tender.  The light and springy material returns to close out the composition.

Finally, the Five Miniatures for baritone sax, bass clarinet, and piano by Fernando Benadon are delightfully quirky pieces that present a focal idea, perseverate upon said idea, and then vanish.  Niether of the five movements feels underwritten and, while one might hear how each idea could become longer, I think it would destroy the chiseled nature of these pieces.  There is a lot of fun and whimsy in their brevity, making this piece the perfect waft of light flavor after a satisfying meal.

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