Review of Twenty Ten [12k1066]

Brainwashed (US)

At four pieces spread across three separate CDs, the term “sprawling” immediately came to my mind with this set. Even though it is a lengthy recording, the pieces are so distinct and different from one another that it is a challenging, but rewarding listen.

The first piece, “January 4, 2011,” is perhaps one of the most different, because essentially it is untouched by any sort of computer processing. The layered tracks of metallophones and xylophones intertwine like a wind chime shop during a tornado. Clattering together chaotically, the fact that it’s based on live recordings.

The second piece on this first disc, “November 7, 2010,” takes an entirely different approach. Piano, celesta, and strings are heavily processed and treated via software, stretched microtones expanding into delicate, vast expanses. The original, untreated sounds come through here and there, but for the most part it’s over forty minutes of delicate, crystalline tones that sound like they could shatter at any time.

Disc two is a single piece, “September 25, 2010,” in which 142 unique chords and combinations of strings, woodwind and horns are scattered about huge expanses of silence. The actual instrumentation mostly retains its natural sound, with each irregular surge bringing together the instruments and chords into unique, varying microtonal clusters. I must admit first skimming through the disc, the long spans of silence seemed dull, but it makes perfect sense in the context of whole piece.

The final piece, which takes up the entire third disc, consists of two layers of decaying piano playing, with enough lo-fi static to drive home the feeling of age and rot. Making this even more pronounced is a jittery, erratic mastering that puts huge gaps of silence in the piece. Listening to this on my laptop, I had to check more than once to make sure that the computer didn’t freeze or crash. It is jarring and distracting at times, but the hushed, static enshrouded passages of piano are beautiful enough to make the challenge worth it.

With the length of pieces and varying modalities used, this is a difficult suite of compositions. At times it feels like sonic abstractions of abstractions:l a meta-decomposition of sound that isn’t something that works well in the background, but taken piece by piece with dedicated, focused listening, the results are captivating.

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