AMN Reviews: Transient Canvas – Wired [New Focus Recordings FCR218]

On Wired the acoustic duo Transient Canvas—bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock—are indeed wired. Most of the seven pieces on the CD, which the duo commissioned between 2014 and 2017, supplement the basic reed and percussion ensemble with electronic sounds of one kind or another.

Many of the compositions reflect the influence of rock or other recent popular music: they may have discernible, song-like harmonic cycles or well-defined rhythms, or both. But that’s just a jumping-off point; these are influences to be reworked, dismantled and reassembled into something particular to each composer. Exergy Bubblebath, for example, a 2015 composition by Peter VanZandt Lane, takes explicit inspiration from the dance music of the 1990s but refigures it in a series of deftly executed, rapid unison figures for bass clarinet and marimba while electronic sounds ricochet in the background. Syncopation propels Dan Van Hassel’s Epidermis (2017), which breaks up into twitchy repetitions of fragmentary phrases covered in a skin of electronic sounds. Kirsten Volness’s Year Without a Summer (2017) opens with deep, brooding electronic tones before developing into a movingly plaintive bass clarinet melody placed over arpeggiated chords on marimba. Branches, a 2015 composition by David Ibbett, sets out rock rhythms in changing time signatures recalling some of the more challenging kinds of progressive rock; from there, it swerves into an infectiously upbeat outro. Somnambula (2014), by Rudolf Rojahn, repeats a relatively simple but haunting melody over a cyclic song structure, which it then takes through a series of variations. On the more abstract side, Lainie Fefferman’s Hyggelig (2016), which appears to be a purely acoustic piece for Advocat and Sharrock alone, moves in free-floating trills and measured lines. Mischa Salkind-Pearl’s solm (2016) captures in musical analogy the experience of hearing a foreign language whose meanings one doesn’t understand: what stands out are the prosody as well as bits and pieces of phonics with the semantics stripped out. Accordingly, the music is fragmented and focused on the sound qualities of the instruments, enriched by an electronic overlay.

http://newfocusrecordings.com

Daniel Barbiero