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Decca Phase 4
Drew KRAUSE (b.
Riddle (1993) [8:00]
Apocalypso (2000) [9:09]
First of July (1996)
Go-Round (1999) [15:48]
Drain (2002) [13:57]
; McCormick Percussion Ensemble [2, 4, 6]; Drew Krause (piano)
; Evan Spritzer (bass clarinet)
; Danny Tunick (drum-kit) ; The Glass Orchestra 
rec. March 2005, Patrych Sound, New York ; April-May 2000,
Springs Theatre, Tampa, Florida [2,4,5]; Feb 2005, KAS Music & Sound,
Astoria, New York ; March 2002, University of South Florida,
Tampa, Florida 
The opening track of this CD, Riddle for
percussion trio is sparse, with intermittent drum phrases broken
up by menacing cricket-like sounds. Despite its slow evolution
and minimalist content, there is something attractive about
this piece; it has a kind of magnetic power which draws you
in and entices you to become part of the action. There is a
sense of tension, built by the short phrase lengths and frequent
returns to short silences.
By contrast, the title track of the disc, Ding,
distinctly jazzy, with an array of sounds and a laid-back feel.
The complexity of the music is hidden by decisive and well-controlled
playing, with the excellent players of the McCormick Percussion
Ensemble giving a fine performance.
The combination of bass clarinet and drum-kit
is perhaps an unusual one, but not necessarily unsurprising,
given the bass clarinet’s rising dominance in the contemporary
music-world. The ensemble works well in Apocalypso;
while not containing the same wildness of some modern bass
clarinet works, in this piece, Krause demonstrates a good understanding
of his chosen instruments. Performed with good rhythmic control
and a sense of colour, the piece is handled well by Evan Spritzer
and Danny Tunick. The clarinet line is full of characteristically
wide leaps, and goes high in its range, while the drum-kit
serves mostly in an accompanying role. Having heard other Krause
works, I am somewhat surprised by the restraint shown here;
perhaps it is successful for the very reason that both instruments
are capable of much more than Krause asks of them.
First of July builds up textures with
an array of percussion instruments, with rhythmic patterns
phasing between the instruments, so that at times they are
together and at other times forming complex poly-rhythms as
the lines combine. The sleeve-notes state “FIRST OF JULY superimposes
a self-similar mensuration canon against statistically-determined
ensemble activity that increases in density as the piece unfolds”.
The canonic ideas can be clearly heard, through repeated phrases,
and the texture does indeed become denser as the piece evolves.
In some ways, this is a contemporary off-shoot of minimalism,
using texture as a source of musical progression. While the
individual music ideas are perhaps too numerous to qualify
as pure minimalism, the overall effect is not dissimilar to
Reich and his counterparts.
The opening of Go-round is hypnotic, again
using minimal sounds which repeat and draw the listener in
as part of a trance-like state. Complementary sounds are added
one by one, and finally a melodic line is apparent. The sound-world
here is reminiscent of South East Asia; it reminded me of the
tranquillity of a Thai Spa. This is beautifully meditative
music, and proof that Krause has a whole array of skills as
a composer. I could listen to this for hours.
The final track, Drain, is a complete contrast
to the peacefulness of its predecessor. The only track on this
disc to incorporate computer generated sounds, there is a sense
of unrest and perhaps even brutality at the opening. After Go-round,
this feels like a stark return to reality. A live concert performance,
the percussionists respond to the other-worldly sounds of the
tape part with a splash of bangs and wallops, sometimes texturally
complex, at other times allowing more silence to take over.
For me, the most ethereal and gripping moment, is the use of
a computer manipulated voice sound. There is something disturbingly
intoxicating about the use of this sound in the distance, while
the drumming pounds above it, as if the intention is to silence
it. As a live performance, this is a fine recording.
Krause is an experimental composer, whose music
has the feel of being determined by mathematical means. The
programme notes speak of texture, structure and agitated response.
Whatever his compositional methods, this disc has a wide spectrum
of colour, variety and contrast. The tracks were mostly recorded
at different times and in different venues, but there is no
sense of it being a badly assembled composite; on the contrary,
the production quality matches well from track to track and
the styles flow naturally between works. This is the kind of
music that somehow dominates the performers. An audience hearing
this for the first time will scarcely be aware of how well
it is being played, as the music itself provides a feast for
the senses. It is something like a well-oiled machine; the
fascination is with the whole, rather than the individual parts.
The playing here is consistently admirable from all the performers
- surely the biggest compliment to any performer is that they
did their job so well that the music became the primary focus.
Always convincing, it is clear that the players not only understand
the music they are playing, but that they also have the compulsion
to communicate that understanding to the listening audience.
As a result, this CD serves as an attractive introduction to
the work of this particular composer.
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