Monday, April 16, 2012

This '09 Flexible Music CD is Worth It!

The green room was a disgrace.

From my PopMatters review of Flexible Music's fm album, a few sentences:

[FM] favour modern classical music squarely in the downtown NYC tradition of bucking tradition, blending atonality with gestures out of minimalism and soundtracks, and pushing complex syncopated rhythms right out front.

The album opens with Louis Andriessen’s 1991 “Hout”, one of the few pieces written prior to this millennium for FM’s instrumentation. The Dutch composer wrote “Hout” as a nearly-strict canon, with saxophone leading the melodic charge and the other instruments following at 16th note intervals. The resulting piece sounds like a long, jazz-influenced melody getting dragged through a lake, sending out ripples of echoes that threaten to swamp the tune but never do. As a musical experiment, it’s cool; as a piece of music it’s something more, given Andriessen’s talent for mixing the instruments’ sonorities into indelible blends. Though the notes move constantly, with saxophonist Timothy Ruedeman’s fingers clacking away, the piece swells and breathes with a large-scale shape all its own.

[In "Sustenance Variations"] pianist Eric Huebner lulls you with a delicate music box melody, and then, out of nowhere, Lippel and percussionist Haruka Fujii start smacking their instruments around. The effect startles, and it achieves the grab-you-by-the-throat physicality that’s one of FM’s goals.

Musicians of all genres would do well to realize that James Brown was one of last century’s smartest musicians, up there with Stravinsky. That doesn’t mean you can’t imitate him. But simply copping a couple mannerisms reveals a shallow understanding of his chief innovation, a precise rhythmic pointillism that coalesces into free-floating grooves. Don’t condescend to the Godfather. (OK, I’m done.)

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