8 Point Turn
With 8 Point Turn, Philadelphia's reputable avant-classical ensemble Relâche has done what Pittsburgh's own New Music Ensemble hasn't accomplished since its restructuring seven years ago: It released a disc with a Pittsburgh composer on it. And the members of Relâche -- and now entering its 30th season -- all live in the Philly area, imagine that!
The CD's 12-minute title track is by Pitt professor Eric Moe, co-director of the Music on the Edge series. "Eight Point Turn" aurally describes a ride through a stretch of Montana wilderness, in essence a neo-chamber analogue to Krautrock's autobahn-inspired "motorik." Rhythmically propulsive and somewhat cyclical melodically a la Steve Reich's "Different Trains" (though it's by no means a minimalist exercise), the players roll through motifs that shift slightly as the scenery passes by. There are also moments of gentle lyricism and stop-start uncertainties, as the oboe, flute and viola provoke calls and responses against the grinding gears of the piano, bassoon and percussion.
The disc also features Wisconsin composer Joseph Koykkar's "Panache"; Relâche offers intriguing cinematic flair on its middle movement, "Noir," where you can visualize true-crime characters lurking in the shadows. Relâche also lends joie de vivre to Leslie Savoy Burrs' bouncy and jazzy "Voyeuristic Absurdities," where the upper-register instruments shine, and thoroughly explores the protean psyche of "Pleiades," by the Cyprus-born Sophia Serghi.
Most significantly, the ensemble tackles "Creamer Etudes" by prolific British legend/Derek Bailey associate Gavin Bryars. It's definitely one of his more filmic and stirring (dare I say romantic?) works, but another success in Relâche's tradition of fearlessly tackling the big guns while always pushing onward. I'd love to see Moe bring Relâche to Pittsburgh, perhaps offering a lesson to those who think that in this age of the short attention span, New Music can only succeed with audience pandering and theatrical gimmicks, rather than an informed emphasis on the still-vibrant "downtown" sound.