Nico Muhly: I Drink The Air Before Me CD
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Composer and arranger Nico Muhly returns with a new solo album jointly released by his old pals at the Icelandic Bedroom Community label and Decca Classics. The previous five years or so saw Muhly collaborating with the likes of Bjork, Grizzly Bear, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Jonsi, Antony & The Johnsons and Philip Glass gaining a formidable reputation on the international stage as a composerr in his own right.
I Drink The Air Before Me is a score for the Stephen Petronio dance piece of the same name. In his liner notes, Muhly speaks of this music's relationship with the weather, and how he intended the various instruments to take on their own characters: "I wanted the ensemble to be a little quirky community of people living by the edge of the sea: a busybody flute, a wise viola, and the masculine, workmanlike bassoon, trombone and upright bass. The piano acts as an agitator, an unwelcome visitor, bearing with it aggressive electronic noises and rhythmic interruptions."
In terms of creative ambition and all-round mastery of his art, Muhly's music is leagues above the vast majority of contemporary indie-classical artists. There's no room for schmaltz or string ensemble tearjerking here; I Drink The Air Before Me engages with far more challenging and modernist concerns. Many of the classical recordings that come our way tend to be derived from dance pieces, yet this is one of the relatively few to truly engage with rhythm in a fresh and visceral manner. With the interlocking, overlapping intricacy of "Music Under Pressure 1 - Flute" and the panicked, clashing polyrhythms of "First Storm", Muhly plots a complex course, yet he still makes room for reflective tones when te time comes: the commanding, stop-start horn swells of "Music For Boys" prove to be more elegantly melodic, while the bookending pieces ("Fire Down Below" and "One Day Tells Its Tale To Another") make good use of a very melancholy sounding children's choir. A hugely rewarding album - one of the finest modern classical releases of 2010.
Look out also for Nico Muhly's simultaneous release, A Good Understanding.
Top Customer Reviews
a bit of a magpie peddling style over substance but were we
to look no further than this commission for the Stephen
Petronio dance company (or his new opera 'Two Boys' currently
being staged by English National Opera) then we will clearly
experience a composer of idiosyncratic vision and energy.
The twelve pieces which comprise 'I Drink The Air Before Me'
demonstrates Mr Muhly's easy affinity with music for movement.
Angular; percussive; as much European in "feel" as it is American
in its bones (witness the Copeland-like cadences of 'Salty Dog',
whose thematic material contains more than a little spirit of
the master's 1944 ballet 'Appalachian Spring').
Without seeing the dancers there is, of course, half of the
business missing but the music stands up well on its own two
feet and draws us ever onward and inward into an enthralling
and engaging sonic journey of singular invention and imagination.
'Music Under Pressure 1 - Flute' and 'Music Under Pressure 2 -
Piano' are both especially satisfying pieces. The piano/brass
interplay in the former is truly bravura stuff! The massive
block-like chords of the latter generate palpable tension.
A childrens' choir is used judiciously here and there, notably
on the brooding opening number 'Fire Down Below' (the spirit of
Benjamin Britten seems a hair's breadth away) and the haunting
finale 'One Day Tells Its Tale To Another'. Sterling stuff!
I particularly enjoyed the nervy solo string dirge 'Varied Carols'; a
Danse Macabre decked-out in a stained and tattered winding sheet!
Beyond his work with the world's left-field Bohemian rock elite Nico Muhly
clearly has something of his own to say. It is a strong voice worth hearing.
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?