Steve Reich / Ensemble Avantgarde :: Four Organs / Phase Patterns / Pendulum Music (Karlrecords)

Four Organs / Phase Patterns / Pendulum Music are reminders that, while Reich himself did not record these three pieces, many feel his legacy ought to be remembered and celebrated. Certainly, the Ensemble Avantgarde achieves this and more.

One of the founding fathers of so called minimal music, Steve Reich began experimenting long before his celebrated Music for 18 musicians (1978). As interpreted by the Ensemble Avantgarde his early pieces showcase a powerful combination of minimalism, experimentation and a back to the basics approach that would eventually make it to Reich’s signature sound. First piece “Four Organs” provides a deconstruction of sorts. Beginning by expounding a dominant eleventh chord, Reich slowly increases its duration from a 1/8 note to 200 beats by the end. The result, while jarring at first, rewards repeated listens. Reich’s experimentation was not just a flavor of the month, it is a study of how we listen to music. In particular, arrangements that are often overlooked or just under-appreciated become centerpieces for Reich. In this sense, Four Organs’ repetition is a test. The listener must be ready to extract himself from the almost comical, almost jarring, reiteration of the notes in order to listen to the difference in the process of increasing augmentation.

But if Four Organs represents a thorough dissection of the aforementioned instruments, Pendulum Music explores a conceptual exercise of process music. Showing that Reich’s approach is one continuous play, Pendulum Music is an “orchestra” of microphones involving suspending microphones and speakers that create phasing feedback tones. The result is a kind of soundtrack to early silent films. The repetition is appropriately jarring and the sounds coming from the feedback tones could pass for an out of tune violin. The Ensemble Avantgarde shares two recordings of Pendulum Music. Both exquisitely performed.

Phase Patterns, on the other hand, could be seen as a less interesting take on Four Organs’ signature repetition. Without the maracas though, Phase Patterns achieves a fantastically futuristic repetition, aching to the trippy experiments of Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never. The Ensemble Avantgarde does justice to all three tracks, providing a helpful welcome to Reich’s earlier work. Four Organs / Phase Patterns / Pendulum Music are reminders that, while Reich himself did not record these three pieces, many feel his legacy ought to be remembered and celebrated. Certainly, the Ensemble Avantgarde achieves this and more.

Four Organs / Phase Patterns / Pendulum Music is available on Karlrecords.

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