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Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 12
Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 12
Price: £14.59

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It is over, 25 Aug 2012
Please also read my intro under: Allan Pettersson: Complete Symphonies [Box Set]

After the relative successes of previous years, Pettersson could have continued on that road, but it did not happen. A pity. Did the man that gave us some of the best works written in the second half of the 20th century run out of ideas? Or did lack of universal acceptance tempt him to do something quite different? His Twelfth, composed in 1974, he made into a cantata on words by Pablo Neruda, and it was not a success. Also I find it very unimpressive. It could not have been lack of zest, because he wrote five more symphonies before dying in 1980; ill-ridden, remorseful, lonesome and all but forgotten.


Allan Pettersson: Symphonies Nos. 10 & 11
Allan Pettersson: Symphonies Nos. 10 & 11
Price: £9.52

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Fistblows in the face", 25 Aug 2012
Please read my introduction under:Allan Pettersson: Complete Symphonies [Box Set]

If Pettersson's Fifth was a forebode of what was to come, his Tenth and Eleventh are the afterglow of his monumental four symphonies.
Ten and Eleven could be seen as complementary, two parts of one symphony even, as they were written in overlapping time, when the composer was hospitalized for nine months for a life-threatening ailment and 'in the tunnel of death', 'godforsakenly alone'. They were partly scrabbled on bandages and scraps of paper.
The Tenth is bleak, the Eleventh a bit more meditative and relatively optimistic, as the sketches for that one were worked out when he was convalescing out in the country. Both are still many layered and intense, have the Pettersson texture, but lack sense of oneness, even after repeated hearing. What remains is aimless searching, an inextricable knot of half-baked ideas that doesn't come to fruition as one orchestral wave rolls over the next. No gripping motives, no flow or reps, no meditative islands or stormy weathers. Somewhere in the background we hear a slightly familiar bar or pounding brass section, but they lead nowhere. The music is more uncompromising than ever. What did the composer want to convey? That the flame had died out?


Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima / Popcorn Superhet Receiver / Polymorphia / 48 Responses To Polymorphia
Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima / Popcorn Superhet Receiver / Polymorphia / 48 Responses To Polymorphia
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £11.72

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, not captivating, 25 Aug 2012
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In an effort to get new sounds from old instruments, Penderecki wrote works in the nineteen-sixties that would earn him world fame. In it, instruments were to be played in unconventional ways, like with the bow on the wrong side of the bridge, or using pencils instead of fingers, and the players were allowed to improvise, f.ex. choose their own key or tempo in which to play. Thus the same composition could sound different at every performance. One of these works was Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima - not programmatic music, the title came as an afterthought but surely contributed a lot to its fame. All of the 52 string-instruments play different parts: they rumble, screech, howl, producing their own beauty. This might well be the first soundscape.
Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead-fame had himself inspired by these principles to create Popcorn Superhet Receiver, resulting in clouds of sound drifting by; sometimes dense and brooding, next light and transparent. But also here, there is no melody or hardly any rhythm, just rising and falling chords and clusters. And the constant awareness that not three or four anonymous orchestral sections are playing, but 34 individuals.
Penderecki's Polymorphya again uses weird playing techniques, but instead of random principles here the writing is based on the shapes of brainwave charts, as if they were the score. Nine minutes of tension and noise resolve only in the very end in a final, Beethovian chord played in unison. Which was taken by Greenwood as starting-point for each of his 48 Responses to Polymorphia. (There are actually only 9 variations. 48 refers to the number of players.) So where Penderecki jumps from abstract to conventional, Greenwood takes it the different way around. The responses range from thirty seconds to three-and-a-half minute and each have their distinct character. Only the last one, titled Pacay Tree, where the musicians tap their instruments and pluck the strings, is rhythmic and has harmonies that gives us a glimpse of what also could have been...
As with all avant garde, both Penderecki's and Greenwood's compositions are more of a study, the idea being much more interesting than the result.


Pandoras Pinata - Digipack
Pandoras Pinata - Digipack

5.0 out of 5 stars Not as of old, 24 Aug 2012
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It sounded so promising: the Diablos replaced their drummer and added trumpet and trombone to their line-up (otherwise consisting of lead singer, cellist, bassist and two guitarists cum keyboard-player, so now truly an eight member orchestra.) If a band like that were not unique enough in itself, their mix of nu-metal, big band, opera and salsa surely is. Yet, when I heard the first few songs of their latest I was a bit disappointed. Very cleverly composed and played, unique and virtuosic, but also more of the same, Kevlar Sweetheart maybe excepted, like they ran out of ideas or these were session leftovers from Sing-along Songs For The Damned & Delirious, their previous. But then, just before halfway, the band gets adventurous as of old. Here the songs get more space and time to develop. From Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball (love those titles!) on, the band finds new (prog) ways. In this song, not only the writing, but also the falsetto of Daniel Hakansson reminds of the best of Muse: the song jumps from one idea to the next, and is interjected with instrumental interludes. In Aurora the mike is handed back to Annlouice Løglund, her operatic voice this time not accompanied by the band, but by string orchestra in a very beautiful contemporary arrangement that ends in eastern mood that flows over in Mass Rapture, a true sing-along song. Good thing is that the horn section also knows when NOT to play. All the next tracks are original again and full of weird twists and surprises. The closer Justice For Saint Mary is mainly acoustic and with string arrangement again.
If their next album is going to start with 'left-overs' from the Pandoras Piňata sessions, you won't hear me complain. Not yet acquainted with these Swedes? I bet you are in for a big surprise and adventure. Original, mature and funny at times. Nice artwork, too.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 2, 2012 11:15 PM BST


Nico Muhly: I Drink The Air Before Me
Nico Muhly: I Drink The Air Before Me
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.37

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and accesible, 29 May 2012
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I Drink The Air Before Me is a 12 part score as accompaniment to a dance performance. Obvious question: can the music can stand on its own? It does, 100%. It is idiosyncratic and varied enough to keep attention fixed all the time. The work's opener Fire Down Below with its rather conventional children's choir is atmospheric, but gets followed by the rebellious First Storm and then by Salty Dog, which again is different, a bit of a style mix between the two. Further on a long violin duet can introduce a full-blown ensemble piece. What they all share is a strong sense of rhythm and rich quirkiness. Notes on the piano happily jump every which way and suddenly halt when a bassoon takes over in long wails.
The sound brings Mikel Rouse and Michael Torke to mind, but the compositional approach is much more adventurous. Surely not your every day fare, but not so extreme as to scare one off. That Nico Muhley, at his young age, is such a sought after composer is an encouraging thought for the future of music. It has a beauty of its own that reveals itself slowly after each listen. What can be more rewarding?


Vasks; Vox amoris
Vasks; Vox amoris
Price: £15.80

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful music, beautifully performed, 26 May 2012
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This review is from: Vasks; Vox amoris (Audio CD)
The Wergo label has been feasting us recently on a disc per year of Vasks' compositions. After works for organ and one for piano, now after the very excellent Viatore there is a second instalment for violin and string orchestra, the composer's favourite setting, his instruments of love. And again performed by the Sinfonietta Riga, consisting of young, very talented Latvian and western musicians.
The oldest of the three works is the already much recorded concerto for violin and string orchestra Distant Light from 1997. Is there really any necessity for a 5th, a 6th recording? Especially since Juha Kangas who is conducting here, also led the 2003 Cannes Award winning Ondine edition? Well, his orchestral approach is rather the same, slightly more subdued, if anything, to fit the program. But the mesmerizing violin playing of Russian born Alina Pogostkina explains all. If only better in details, that is what counts at the top after all. She is a revelation. Her approach is imaginative and subtle at the same time, her touch clean and lifts the performance yet a degree higher.
Her skills already become apparent in the opening piece Vox Amoris of 2008/9, a fantasia also very much in the Vasks' vein: pastoral orchestral passages interjected by stormy cadenzas, rich in harmony and melody. Rather sensing than hearing the music, it inaudibly takes off and slowly brings us to contemplation. The composer feels connected to the fate of the planet, his country, nature. Yet, this is not sad music, it is haunting music of involvement and of hope.
The closing Lonely Angel, a thirteen minute meditation, is the most subdued of the three. It is a 1999/2006 orchestration of the last part of the 4th string quartet. Here we hear no conflicts, just comfort and beauty.
A 10 each for the compositions, the performance and the recording.


Music Of Vladimir Martynov
Music Of Vladimir Martynov
Price: £13.08

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love it or leave it..., 26 May 2012
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According to Vladimir Martynov the classical tradition has been exhausted, all has been said, and after the introduction of 20th century techniques, all has been tried. No use inventing something new. The present day composer is more of a mediator than creator and therefore can feel free to dig in the rich past and use as he pleases. Like in the old days one quoted freely from folk songs and hymns, one can now also fall back on classical works. Martynovs music, whether it be for piano, string orchestra or chorus, is largely tonal and romantic, though he isn't shy of a dissonant or modernism. It is usually built from small blocks - a simple motif, a quote - that is repeated over and over, looked at from all angles. Not so much the American interpretation of minimalism where layers shift and variations take over, here the variations are hardly noticeable, the accent is on the repetition itself. The block acts like a mantra, the endless repetitions of it make it into a meditation, drawing the listener beyond the music, shutting him off from the outside world. On the other hand this can make for a trying experience if you want to listen to the music for music's sake; expecting virtuoso solo's or surprising melodic developments. Not that they are not there, but sparsely, especially so on present cd. Here he has taken his manifesto to the extreme, the main parts of the works being soft in volume, slow and extremely repetitious, nearly impersonal.
Opener The Beautitudes perfectly sets the mood, actually sums up all the features mentioned: repetitions ebb and swell, ebb and swell, and before you know it is over.
Not so in The Schubert-Quintet [Unfinished], where there is an opportunity for Joan Jeanrenaud to team up with her former Kronos' mates. It takes Schubert's style as its lead. Though it is perfect for rest and contemplation, to other ears it might rapidly become boring. Just when you think it is over, it all starts again and you are only halfway.
As goes for the much longer Der Abschied, written in memory of his deceased father. The forty minutes' circular work starts and ends with imitating the slow, regular, then halting breathing of a dying man. The strings sound here like a slowly drawn accordion, later giving way to a Mahler quote, that is repeated and developed. They alternate until in the end they merge, like the listener's breath has synchronized in time with the music.
Not close to being a masterpiece, this cd can be rewarding if in the right mindset. As usual with Kronos, all works were commissioned by them, The Beatitudes as a re-working. It adds an interesting chapter to their so diverse repertoire and might introduce new listeners to this controversial post-composer. Them I would advice to listen also to the musically more diverse Requiem and Come in!, both for ensembles. Despite the repetitions and length, some of his choral works are astounding.


Getstring (21st-Century Danish String Quartets)
Getstring (21st-Century Danish String Quartets)
Price: £14.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mathematical excercises, 2 Feb 2012
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Five string quartets by up and coming Danish composers, written between 1999 and 2009, and sewn together by short electronics reworkings of the same works. A composition of compositions. The idea sounds great! But even to my broad musical taste this is complete incomprehensible stuff. There might be things in it I don't understand, maybe mathematical beauty when looking at the score or something, but that is not the point of music, is it? I've tried and tried but to me it stays an aural mess and waste of my money. I thought we'd left the sixties long behind us.


Fables of the Sleepless
Fables of the Sleepless

3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Sleepless, 11 Jan 2012
This review is from: Fables of the Sleepless (Audio CD)
Nearly all of the prog elements that spiced Unexpect's previous cd In A Flesh Aquarium, like acoustic interludes or a semi classical intro, are no more on Fables of the Sleepless Empire. The accent is now solely on their maniacal, chaotic mix of speed and death metal with tons of tempo changes, bizarre tonalities and morbid lyrics. Loud, speedy, unrelenting. Every track offers you five songs for the price of one; not cut-up and alternately played, but all at the same time, leaving no pause for breath. This is what being under attack must feel like. Their musicianship both in playing and writing is beyond question, this might be headbangers' delight, but being more a prog-fan it's all a bit too much for me. Until A Few Deaths Do Us Part, the most traditionally built-up track (with intro!) and contributed by newcomer Borboen, who replaces Le Bateleur on violin, is the album's most memorable one. The pounding finale of it (all too short) the apex.
Impressive, but too many ideas and uberproduced.


Garden Of Fainting Stars
Garden Of Fainting Stars
Price: £10.09

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By Air, 9 Dec 2011
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The third of their trilogy By Sea, By Land, By Air might possibly be their last, since this is what the band originally set themselves to do. Would be a pity, since it is their best to date. Even though recorded over a 5 year period, the quartet sounds more cohesive than ever. Book Of Knots are musical and wedded couple Carla Kihlstedt (violin/vocals) and Matthias Bossi (drums), with Joel Hamilton (guitar) and Tony Maimone (bass), all with impressive musical backgrounds. The band's members don't restricts themselves to just one instrument and, moreover, by weird tuning and manipulation they constantly find unconventional ways of playing. Adding self invented ones broadens their scope even more, the moods ranging from intimate to cinematic; sometimes edgy, then adventurous or doom-like, but seldom pretty. In a song like f. ex. Moondust Must with its bizarre tonalities, music rules are re-written.
The air theme is to be taken very broad: from the first animals launched into space (in the opening song Microgravity) to bird migration, to the hassles of commercial air travel in Drosophila Melanogaster. Blixa Bargeld recounts this last in, at times, hilarious narration. Contributions by guest artists, mainly in the vocal field, are tradition by now. Mike Patton's raw but passionate singing makes the slightly metal-like Planemo soar to galactic heights. I love it on full volume and is my favourite on this cd that ends with Obituary For The Future, in which the last survivor of an apocalypse desperately tries to make radio contact.
New York art rock at its best: complex and against the grain, but also challenging, at times even compelling. Because of its unique, fascinating idiom this album will have to grow on you, but isn't that a sign of quality? Guess it will sound as fresh in another 10 years as it does today.


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