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Gavin BRYARS (b. 1943)
1. Part I - 7:34
2. Part II - 12:57
3. Part III - 9:18
4. Part IV - 8:31
5. Part V - 5:16
6. Part VI - 2:20
Gavin Bryars, electric keyboard, double bass, director
James Woodrow, electric guitar
Sophie Harris, cello
Takehisa Kosugi, violin, hand-held percussion
Rec: No date given, Angel Studio, Islington, London.

This recording, the first release on Gavin Bryars' GB Records (in spite of its being numbered 02) is a work commissioned by the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio. While music written to accompany performances often seems lacking when heard in isolation, this disc stands on its own quite well.

The work is in six parts, with no intervening pauses, and has a dense, foreboding sound. After an opening section where hope seems to exist, and an aerian cello spins a melancholy tale, the music weaves its way through clouds of angst and oppression. With its waves of keyboard sound flowing behind Robert Frippish-style guitar lines, the second section is powerfully despondent. The dark background of keyboards flows throughout the section and deep percussion tolls arhythmically.

The third section brings in a wider variety of sounds, which float in and out: single guitar notes, the occasional Glassian keyboard riff; improvisational sounding music that builds slowly as the different parts combine. Then the tone changes in the fourth section, as the music becomes brighter, the violin takes the forefront, and the sound is more like a string quartet. The music again becomes sombre in the fifth section, with a loss of structure and a growing dissonance. This ends, in the final section, on a dark, speculative note, as it fades into nothingness.

Alas, it is hard to do justice to any such work with a simple description. This disc is powerful and haunting, and the listener cannot but be disturbed. But this almost Beckettian sound is not to the taste of everyone, and I would recommend listening to some excerpts if possible before taking the plunge. Bryars shows a great deal of energy in this work, but this is not the kind of energy that everyone wants to listen to.

Kirk McElhearn

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