AMN Reviews: Jeremiah Cymerman – Citadels & Sanctuaries (2021; 5049 Records)

New York based clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman returns with his fifth solo album (his first in eight years). Recorded late last year, each piece is dedicated to a composer who influenced Cymerman’s development, such as Alvin Lucier, Horațiu Rădulescu, Morton Feldman, Nate Wooley, Iancu Dumitrescu, and Evan Parker. The focus is on Cymerman playing his instrument with backing drones, echo, electroacoustics, and processed sounds.

Cymerman’s style and mood diverge quite a bit between these pieces, from more pastoral pieces performed almost straight to abstract expressionism with heavy use of extended techniques and processing. The more extreme of the latter, such as the tracks dedicated to Rădulescu and Dumitrescu, obscure the source instrument to varying extents with distorted sound walls. Other pieces are almost ambient, exhibiting spiraling themes or simple melodies combined with sparse static. From time to time, Cymerman juxtaposes contrasting elements, such as the gentle drones overlaid with distorted and abstruse clarinet effectuations on the track dedicated to Wooley.

And yet, Cymerman’s approach is far from academic deconstruction. The emotive range displayed on Citadels & Sanctuaries is quite remarkable. There is a palpable darkness to most of these pieces, as Cymerman projects his own sentiments through the lens of his influences. Nonetheless, the album also provides more than a few moments of stark beauty.

While a veteran, Cymerman is still young and someone to watch. When combined with his duo release with Charlie Looker from a few months ago, Citadels & Sanctuaries suggests that Cymerman is well on his way to developing a singular composition and improvisational language, even when interpreting the works of others.