Bryce Dessner is a guitarist with the alternative-rock and Americana band the National, and this album with the Kronos Quartet appears not on its longtime label home of Nonesuch but on the rock-oriented Anti imprint. The sound, from the standpoint of classical music, is a bit overheated, but Dessner certainly fits with the quartet's long-term goals of commissioning music from younger composers and generally reaching out to music lovers of whatever genre. Each work has a fairly specific program. The title piece, Aheym, which was written for a concert in Brooklyn, New York's Prospect Park, denotes the concept "homeward" in Yiddish and is dedicated to the memory of Dessner's own Polish Jewish ancestors. It is questionable as to whether the listener would intuit the programs without knowing them in advance, for the music is written in what might be called a turbo-minimalist style that remains consistent, building as each work proceeds. The third piece, Tenebre, features triple-layered vocals at the end from new-folk singer Sufjan Stevens, as well as an octuple-layered Kronos Quartet, but certainly the most interesting piece is the last one, Tour Eiffel. Here Dessner modifies his minimalist language and forges a three-unit texture consisting of a children's choir, a small band led by his own guitar, and the quartet. These three play off each other in simple but original ways, each refracting a text by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro about the Eiffel Tower. It's a novel conception, and it makes one want to hear more from its composer. Recommended for those interested in classical-rock fusions.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim