Music by Matt McBane
New Amsterdam Records
- Behavior Patterns
Build is Andrea Lee, cello; Ben Campbell, bass; Matt McBane, violin/composer; Michael Cassedy, piano; Adam D. Gold, drums/percussion.
Build’s second album is far from sophomoric. I had the pleasure of reviewing their first album and I find this second release to keep all the best aspects of Matt McBane’s compositional voice and add more sophisticated instrumental textures and more compelling dramatic shapes. The strings have a more distributed use of pizzicato and bowed playing, tracks feature more subsets of the ensemble, the percussion is invigorated with a restrained use of the drum set and a broader sound palette of percussion instruments, and in general McBane employs more variety in the orchestrational vocabulary. While each track stands squarely on its own, there are plenty of distinct dramatic chunks that cross over individual track boundaries. The ensemble plays with a tight sound, everyone in sync with the needs of the music before them.
Behavior Patterns establishes a fairly static yet compelling harmonic world. Build does us the favor of NOT resolving these harmonies and just lets us chill in them for a while. Dissolve then dissipates the tension left over from Behavior Patterns. In some ways, I hear a fond connection to side-scrolling video game music in the driving sections of Dissolve (I could totally play Ninja Gaiden to this) and a wonderful sense of release as Dissolve splashes down and does what the title suggested it was going to do. Ride is a mellow flowing melodic interlude before the meatier Swelter set gets going.
The three Swelter tracks work as a single dramatic arc (fast, slow, fast) and Swelter 3 has been made available for free download. Swelter 1‘s frenetic and irregular groove is infinitely listenable, especially as the texture thins and the soaring cello melody rises over the top of said groove. Swelter 2 turns to lighter and thinner textures and Swelter 3 turns the grooves back on. These three tracks emulate one of the points of growth in this disc; all three are scored for cello, piano, and drums. Within that subset of Build, Matt McBane finds additional textural life and a true chamber music sense of discourse. You don’t realize that the ensemble is pared down at all.
I hear a similar multi-track arc in the end of the album. Cleave is, to be blunt, f*$&ing incredible. The simplest materials (piano ostinato, tight and irregular glissandi in the strings, militaristic drums) grow and build and expand inexorably to Cleave’s high point. The music is haunting, sorrowful, mesmerizing, and hits me in an intensely personal space. When it starts, I can do nothing but listen. Following Cleave, Anchor is the most abstract and disjointed work. The replacement of vibraphone for drum set and the fragmented ensemble (often in disjointed pairs and trios) keep the track lively but without a massively driving force. Fragments of distorted cello bubble under the surface, glassy and timeless intervals hang in the air, the bass gets expressive bowed lines, hocketing abounds in the middle; the whole piece seems to be the ensemble asking the “what haven’t we done on this album yet” question and creating elegant answers. To end the disc, Maintain is Build at its most straight forward. Resonant open intervals pulse forever forward, pushing the album towards a very satisfying harmonic and gestural goal. The directness of the line may come across to some as slightly corny in a quasi-film score sort of way but I thoroughly enjoy the plain and direct motion. After the ride we’ve had since Cleave I find the stable and hypnotic push towards the end the perfect closer.