AMN Reviews: Noah Creshevsky – The Four Seasons (Tzadik)

Noah Creshevsky – The Four Seasons (Tzadik; 2013)

By Vincent Bergeron

I think that this release by Noah Creshevsky shows that a collaborative effort of this kind nowadays can have pretty much the same feel than music composed with various recordings that were not made to be together. At least, in the case of Noah, it does. And why wouldn’t that be the same for others? Music is now an international language where traditions collide together in our brains, effortlessly, from one sound mode to another, with structures that do not rely on easily guessed systems, in the ears of a younger generation that will soon produce some of the most exciting music, once the transition is made from the current passive and pseudo-active user of technology (playing a video game with apps) to pro-active and creative user, with persons literally learning their own way through sound at rapid speeds that we can only guess lamely for now. Nothing can replace the chemistry of musicians playing together for a long time, but I find other emotions are being expressed through alternative modes like the one Noah invented with his own modest means.

Yet, some parts on this release sound totally unlike the previous collages from Noah, his hyper-tight and thought out music composition starting, this time, with an almost Autechre-like melody that would collaborate with Frank Zappa, only one instrument following another (harpsichord and piano) with apparitions from an heavy drum, a spoken voice, a saxophone and a violin. Summer has an organic intensity during the first four minutes that I find challenging for my own music, which I made with other types of recordings in levels of harmonies, but often through somehow similar methods of recomposition. Unlike me, Noah is keeping alive his initial discipline of fragments lasting less than a second and he also enjoys pitch shifting a lot of the material to compose his own melodies. The result is both archaic on electronic textures and with acoustics, like a better Frank Zappa with his synclavier (first digital sampler-keyboard) when it is the most synthetic.

I know by experience, not everybody will love this sort of hyperactive and “not ‘really’ played by ‘real’ musicians” style of composition, that is probably done with most enthusiasm and energy when kept for yourself and a few fans, if you don’t want to be depressed by the silly nostalgy of others, but how addictive and convincing this music can be once you get into it. In a way, it is the opposite philosophy of recent choir releases on Tzadik, made out with 100’s of voices playing the same chords at the same time. Here, as usual for Noah, not much harmonic work is being developed here, but the sound is nothing at all bordering on quality new age, it keeps going forward and rarely gets back to the same exact fragment or sequence. The fusion between mechanical keyboards and virtuoso playing is central to all of Noah’s music that I have heard, mostly released on Tzadik since 2000.

There is something specially comforting about The Four Seasons, perhaps it is the confidence with which the music is executed and presented in various tracks that all feel like parts of one big composition. In fact, one ability that I appreciate the most from Noah here is to let go of the instrumentation from one section to another, this way avoiding the Déjà-vu experience or provoking it through other instruments playing the same chords of the previous section, perhaps something that is made possible by this first all-collaborative effort. The album is also a recap of previous releases by Noah and it channels the pleasure of zapping channels unlike any other music by him. Finally, I appreciate strongly how the various isolated voices of the vocal collaborators are put together in the same parts for the most obvious harmonic work in all of Noah’s music yet ; another side that is refreshing from the all-collaborative effort philosophy.

One of the most eclectic, creative and intense releases on Tzadik that is not from the genius founder John Zorn himself.

Amy Denio: Voice
Chris Mann: Voice
Tomomi Adachi: Voice
Teodross Avery: Tenor Sax
Adrian Banner: Piano
Orin Buck: Bass
Monique Buzzarté: Trombone
Jeremiah Cawley: Voice
Sherman Friedland: Clarinet
Beth Griffith: Voice
Rich Gross: Banjo
Kathy Hanson: Voice
Gary Heidt: Guitars, Voice
Ben Holmes: Trumpet
Rodney Jones: Guitar
Mari Kimura: Violin
Alex Kontorovich: Clarinet, Alto Sax
Maria Mannisto: Voice
Ray Marchica: Drums
Al Margolis: Clarinet
Gregg Mervine: Drums
Marco Oppedisano: Guitar
Lonnie Plaxico: Bass
Heather Chriscaden Versace: Bass
Susan Watts: Trumpet, Voice
Audrey Betsy Welber: Tenor And Alto Saxes
Amy Zakar: Violin

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