AMN Reviews: loadbang – Quiver [New Focus Recordings fcr 342]

The chamber ensemble loadbang may well be unique in its instrumentation of trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, and baritone voice. A strange combination, yes, but one capable of producing interesting timbres and textures. Accordingly, some of the most effective music on this album of eight compositions by seven composers, three of whom are members of the ensemble, involves the dramatic extensions and juxtapositions of loadbang’s instrumental and human voices.

Disquiet (2016), by loadbang’s bass clarinetist Carlos Cordeiro, is a setting of a text by Fernando Pessoa suggestive of an individual’s experience of multiple personalities; Cordeiro emphasizes the characteristic qualities of the group’s instrumentation by arranging them as separate, abutting presences within a deliberately discordant and fragmentary whole. By contrast, vocalist Jeffrey Gavett’s Proverbial (2009), a setting of three of William Blake’s Proverbs from Hell, assembles the winds into massed and dissonant long tones. Washington DC area composer Heather Stebbins’ Quiver (2014), which was inspired by a trip the composer took to Iceland, uses muted brass and extended techniques for wordless voice to craft a spluttering, choppy allusion in sound to the lurching action of geological processes.

Further along on the spectrum of extended technique, Zong Yun We’s Flower (2015/2017) is a gestural work drawing heavily on unpitched sounds; something of a polar opposite is Quinn Mason’s harmonically conventional composition Aging (2017), a somber setting of a two-line poem by Adam Lefaivre anchored by the bass clarinet. Quiver also includes trumpeter Andy Kozar’s To Keep My Loneliness Warm (2016), a two-part setting of a text by Lydia Davis built around a microtonal drone and shards of words; Chaya Czernowin’s Irrational (2019), an assemblage of pulsing patterns, unpitched timbres, and wordless vocals; and Gavett’s 2016 quis det ut, a work for just intonation based on a 15-16th century Franco-Flemish motet.

Daniel Barbiero