AMN Reviews: David First / The World Casio Quartet – The Complete Gramavision Session (1989) [Pogus P21084-2]

R-8768693-1468364146-4968.jpegA saxophone quartet, yes. A string quartet, most certainly. But a Casio quartet? But of course! In the late 1980s, composer David First acquired a Casio CZ-1000 to create microtonal drones with the assistance of a Tascam Portastudio. An overdubbed demo piece called Four Casios—a wry, quasi-parodic homage to Steve Reich’s Four Organs credited to the technically non-existent World Casio Quartet—led to performance requests and the consequent formation of a real World Casio Quartet. The four members—First, Esther Sandrof and Brian Charles on Casio CZ-1000 and Kevin Sparke on Casio CS-101—went into the studio in 1989 and recorded the four pieces that appear on this CD.

Rather than creating conventional harmonies with melodies superimposed, the group forged its distinctive collective sound by detuning their instruments and stacking the resulting microtones into thick clusters. The two middle tracks on the release—one of which is appropriately titled Plate Mass—consist of heavy, droning masses of densely layered plates of sound rising and falling against and with each other in slow glissandi. Strange Over and Collapsing ‘Round Midnight both are rapid pulse pieces whose inner and outer voices build complex, motile chords—the latter an oblique, microtonal allusion to the Monk classic ‘Round Midnight.

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Daniel Barbiero