Posts Tagged “Tristan Perich”

Nonextraneous SoundsCD cover

Mariel Roberts, cello

innova records

  • Three Shades, Foreshadows – Andy Akiho
  • Teaser – Sean Friar
  • Saint Arc – Daniel Wohl
  • Flutter – Alex Mincek
  • Formations – Tristan Perich

My favorite quote from Mariel Roberts about this disc is “I wanted to make an album that sounds like the city I live in,” and I cannot think of a better aural enticement to move to New York City right now. These five solo cello/cello and electronics pieces are bustling with compelling energy and quirky sounds that constantly draw me in closer and closer. The Rodin sculpture-inspired Three Shades, Foreshadows by Andy Akiho bubbles and roils along. The electronic component stays strongly within the realm of natural sounds and the cello has been prepared with clothespins to change the pizzicato resonance. Any and all tapping and pizz sounds are used throughout the piece and the blend between live and recorded elements is perfectly seamless. Roberts has a perfect sense of timing to accentuate the grooves and create vibrant clouds of sounds.

Teaser is a monster of a solo piece in terms of technique as most of the music is made of double-stops. Roberts maintains a very playful and effortless energy throughout which belies the composition’s difficulty. Teaser’s form is mainly of moments which build and coagulate together into jaunty grooves (Sean Friar uses the title as a reference to the “tease” in storytelling). Teaser moves into and out of interesting spaces quite effectively and, while it doesn’t go where I expect on first listen, its arrival points are always worth the trip. Similar things can be said about Daniel Wohl’s Saint Arc, which brings electronics back into the mix. The piece itself uses timbral juxtapositions to build a sense of tension and release and Wohl shapes his piece quite well in that regard. Different than the Akiho work, the electronics are certainly cello-related/based sounds but the goal is the “otherness” of the sound and putting the live performer in relief to more sustains and shimmering backgrounds.

Alex Mincek’s Flutter is, pretty much, a perfect encapsulation of the title. Flutter is exactly what this piece does. Shuffling sounds swirl in and out of (what I think is) an electronic accompaniment and Roberts’ live cello seems to invoke these murmurs at first and then scrambles in ever-increasing counterpoint against them. If those initial sounds aren’t electronic, I have no idea how it is all being done. After the piece reaches its climactic peak, Roberts exhales out all the tension which was build up. The gradual detuning of the low C string for the piece’s extended final sighs is particularly haunting.

Closing the disc is the monolithic Formations by Tristan Perich for cello and 1-bit sounds. Perich’s signature blend of punchy and energetic synth timbres plays alongside a focused and repetitive live cello. The cello doesn’t always sit in the forefront of the musical texture which, while it makes for some interesting interplay with the synth world, might be an irritant for some. If you enjoy dynamic contrast, this is not the piece for you. The upbeat, active, and driving rhythmic interplay is always engaging and hypnotic. I find the piece right on the edge of captivating and irritating, which is a fascinating place to be. I have the feeling that you will know within 10 seconds of this piece’s beginning whether or not you will want to hear the whole 20 minutes. I wanted to, and I have on several occasions.

Another mild criticism some might have of the disc would be Roberts’ tone, which is much more on the edgy side of the spectrum and not the deep, dark, bassy kind of sound one would want for Brahms sonatas. I, for one, think he tone is spot on to the music she is playing which is the sign of a skilled performer. I would love to hear Roberts play something more lyrical and emotive in the future but this disc, as a presentation of Roberts’ voice, really rocks. There is a gesamtkunst-at-werk going on here: the energetic performances, the matching of tone to the aesthetics of the compositions, the language of the music chosen, it all creates a “unified field theory” making every detail of this CD point back to Mariel Roberts as Someone to Which We Should Be Listening.

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Tristan Perich
1-Bit Symphony
Cantaloupe Music (computer chip housed in jewel case)

Electronic music composer and visual artist Tristan Perich is fascinated with 1-bit audio. 1-bit Music, his first release for the Cantaloupe imprint back in 2006, featured a computer chip and on/off switch housed in a jewel case. Listeners looking for the CD found a headphone jack. All one had to do was plug in a pair of headphones, flip the switch, and voila! A fragile yet supple music, redolent with signatures of early electronica, was revealed.

Perich has expanded his use of 1-bit audio in the past few years, developing it in several collaborations with classical instrumentalists. Thus, for his next music maker in a jewel case, Perich has correspondingly expanded the ambitions of the work, having it reflect the formal issues addressed in symphonic music.

1-Bit Symphony utilizes on and off electrical pulses, synthesized by code and routed from microchip to speaker. Thus, a script of computer code (included in the liner notes) is transformed into sound. The results are sometimes reminiscent of the ambient looping heard in minimalist keyboard works such as Terry Riley’s organ pieces from the late 1970s. Occasionally, it replicates the soundtracks of early computer games, but the blips and loops are far better finessed!

The juxtaposition of 1-bit audio, and its relatively simple sound wave building blocks, with a more expansive musical design proves an oddly adorned yet appealing amalgam. Gone is symphonic bloat, replaced instead by delicate circuitry. And the artifact itself is easily the coolest physical recording medium I’ve come across in some time.

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