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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartstoppingly beautiful,
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)I won't talk about different trains as the other reviewers here clearly like it a lot, however I don't think I've ever sat through it all. What I will say is that I still give this album 5 stars without the first half of the album. The electric counterpoint tracks are quite simply insanely beautiful. Pat Metheny shows off his perfect technique by recording a 10 part canon of guitar completely dry (no "reverb" effects used here at all, it sounds big because it is) but with the touch of warm tape compression pleasingly unavoidable using this technique of tape delay (a perfect object lesson in why analogue audio sound is still lauded in this digital age). The piece opens with pulsing chords formed by a choir of Methenys tapping their guitars fretboards to produce specific pitches, and hence establishing the basic harmonic structure. This section leads in to a more conventional plectrum technique for the first fast counterpoint. The second piece drops the tempo significantly, and reworks the original theme, before leading to the climactic thrid section (climactic? surely this is minimalism!). After establishing the canon for the main theme, which will be immediately recognisable to anyone who's listened to Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb - a short sample of this section was looped as the main texture on this tune (not to mention the main reason for its success), we then get treated to the entrance of the bass guitar, followed by strummed chords before the repeat and fade out. Of course an entrance of bass guitar and some strumming shouldn't add up to anything like a crescendo, but after a very dynamically static, almost pastoral 12 minutes of transcendental melodic invention this arrives with more comparative gravitas than many more conventionally 'weighty' pieces. In conclusion: buy it now, no, really; right this very minute; it is absolute perfection. Of course the choice is yours, don't buy it then, see if I care: I'm listening to it right now!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something rather different,
By A Customer
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)On first hearing "different trains", I was immediately struck by just how "different" the sound actually was. The idea of recording speech and integrating this into a musical performance is not new, but the effect achieved here certainly is. The various train effects that are added, such as a steam whistle, are skilfully and tellingly deployed. In addition, the sheer emotive power of the music cannot be denied - the effect of the central movement describing the holocaust victims' experiences is as horrific as anything produced by Hollywood.
Unfortunately, I also felt it to be slightly lacking in overall coherence compared to some of Steve Reich's work. The piece sounds very much as if it were written in two parts - one in which the survivors describe their experiences, and the other relating to post-war America (and, seemingly, an entirely different set of trains with a different message - though maybe this is what the composer wanted!).
The second piece, played by Pat Metheny, is similarly effective. It begins with a slowish introduction (with lots of "reverb" effects) and gradually builds itself to a vigorous, energetic climax in the final movement.
If you are a fan of Steve Reich's music, then you should certainly have this CD. If you aren't familiar with his music (and it can be difficult to get), than this would be the ideal place to start.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A key work of 20th Century classical music,
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)I saw the Kronos Quartet perform the British premier of this piece many years ago now, and it was an experience I'll never forget. At the time it seemed to be a radical step for Reich to collaborate in this way, especially on such a sensitive and intensely autobiographical subject, but the end result remains an incredibly powerful work, and one which I am convinced will come to be seen as a high point of late 20th Century classical music.
It is a pity the accompanying piece written for guitarist Pat Metheny (and I speak as a big fan of his own work) is relatively lightweight in comparison, and that's why I've knocked one star off this review.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprising fusion,
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)The two works on this disc are essential listening for anyone with even the slightest interest in Steve Reich. For those who don't know the composer, there are perhaps easier places to start - the Music for Mallet Instruments, Octet, Music for 18 Musicians, for instance.
It's now nearly 20 years since these pieces were recorded. Different Trains juxtaposes the Kronos Quartet with taped railway announcements, words overheard on trains, lines relating to train journeys etc. Throughout, there's a true integration of the form, since the strings pick up rhythmic and melodic lines from the spoken words, develop them, amplify them.
Electric Counterpoint is performed on an electric guitar. Pat Metheney plays against pre-recorded tapes to create something like a complex - but surprisingly easy on the ear - fugue (well, canon).
I have one criticism of the disc in that I have always found the recording quality of Different Trains just too much "in the face". It's too close for my liking, but the problem isn't great enough to detract from the playing or the piece.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It changed my life!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)A friend lent me this CD at a time I'd never heard of Steve Reich. It's changed by listening habits forever. I just keep on coming back to Different Trains, and have since started collecting the rest of his repetoire. Music for 18 musicians and Proverb/City Life are also both great. I recently spent a morning auditioning a new hi-fi, using the same track 3 from this CD to listen to each system. I think I drove away the rest of the customers, but I enjoyed it!. Very repetetive, trance like, when listening to this I'm a million miles away....
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb,
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)Musicians have always had a fascination with trains - something about them seems to inspire composers to try and capture the sounds and rhythms of a train journey. Different trains starts in this innocuous sort of vein - dubbed over the percussive railway noises and ubiquitous steam whistle effects are what appear to be wistful, nostalgic reminiscences of train journeys of the past. However, some 6-7 minutes into the piece, the listener is jolted out of this gentle reverie. The tempo is subtly raised, and the dates mentioned by the voices - 1940 - 1941 - suddenly take on a new and chilling resonance.
Before we realise it, we are in Germany of the early 1940's, and we are aware that there is nothing innocent about this ride. Through this section, the sound effects - so simple, just a siren and a whistle - are used with devastating effect. The whistle, raised to a progressively higher note as the intensity rises, ends up almost off the scale. It sounds as if the sound equipment used had trouble reproducing the whistle at such a high pitch, and the resulting tortured, screaming effect creates the indescribable quality that such a narrative demands.
After such an episode, the work's conclusion cannot really help its anti climax. There is really nowhere for it to go, though naturally there is a dead, empty ring to some of the descriptions of postwar America.
This was a dangerous work to write - the risk of trivialising the historical events with melodrama or of being afraid to tackle such a subject head on were immense. Reich rises to the challenge masterfully, and I'm sure that 'Different Trains' will be remembered for many many years to come.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And then they stopped playing, and I said 'More, more'...,
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)...and I applauded
It is not unreasonable to consider Different Trains to be Steve Reich's masterpiece. This may even go down in musical history as the pinical of modern American music. Haunting, beautiful, sad and exciting, Different Trains takes the musical style of a brilliant composer and transforms it into a piece of music that has both musical brilliance and emotional profundity. The repetitive sounds of the Kronos Quartet (at the peak of their form, might I add) and the voices of Holocaust survivers make a remarkable piece. The train noises used go from tacky to terrifying, as they are used for the jollity of the North American rail network, to being like the screams of helpless victims. I think that the last movement is the most effective, Reich leaves behind the train motif of the other movements, and the piece winds its way to a haunting and beautiful end.
The other piece on this disc, Electric Counterpoint, makes an interesting, if light weight, supplement. The piece is exceptionally well played and well written, and is genuinly likeable, though it lacks the depth of Different Trains. The first movement is the best, the other movements are less good, but still enjoyable.
The sound on this disk ranges from good to exceptional. Different Trains has a mono quality about it, and seems less polished than Electric Counterpoint. This said, it does not detract in the slightest from the music. The sound on Electric Counterpoint is brilliant, recorded in full blooded stereo. All in all, this is a brilliant, if slightly short, disc that is a must have for everyone with even a slight interest i modern classical music. Seriously reccomended.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Reich masterpiece.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)'Different Trains' is one of those pieces of music it's easy to call a masterpiece. Reich invents a completely new technique, putting sound clips of real people talking to music that reflects the inherent rhythm and pitch change of the spoken word (a technique which he re-uses to good effect in 'The Cave'), uses it to discuss the fate of Jews in the Holocaust, and creates an incredibly powerful piece of music, which is one of my all-time favourites. This recording is stunning, even better than hearing the Kronos perform it live. Yet another Reich must-buy!
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful music,
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)I finally got around to buying this record after it had sat on my wish list for many years.
I am a Pat Metheney fan and Electric Counterpoint is an important piece in his canon - having links to the earlier New Chautauqua album and the later Orchestrion work (both favorites of mine). Other reviewers have said it much better than I could, so I'll limit my praise to a simple statement that Pat's playing is as always beautiful. The production and assembly (for want of a more creative term) of the piece is breathtaking - I'm not musically creative myself, so I can only marvel at the construction process that this piece must have gone through.
For me the piece Different Trains is a fantastic bonus. Prior to my purchase, I was largely unfamiliar with it. However, as I am familiar with many of Steve Reich's more famous pieces (Music for 18 musicians etc), I was confident that I'd enjoy it. Just like Electric Counterpoint I can only marvel at the construction process behind this piece of work.
Both pieces are right up my street. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars profound,
This review is from: Reich: Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint (Audio CD)A friend introduced me to Reich's music and this work in particular appealed greatly. I was lucky enough to see him perform it once in Cardiff. It was added more depth by watching the arena documentary made by the BBC. It's a work everyone should hear at least once.
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