International Contemporary Ensemble, which was founded in 2001, consists of over 30 musicians, but their performances generally draw on only a handful at a time. This recording features a dozen players, but most of the works are trios or quartets for unconventional combinations of instruments and voice. The unifying element in the repertoire on this CD is its unapologetic modernism. This is music with a spiky, sinewy physicality that makes no concession to easy accessibility, and there is a good mix of pieces by established and emerging composers. Abandoned Time, by Dai Fujikura, includes almost the whole ensemble and is essentially a small concerto for electric guitar, played here by Daniel Lippel. Its language may be modernist, but it's not the academic modernism of the late twentieth century; the piece is strongly flavored with a loose-limbed energy and grittiness reminiscent of Bang on a Can. Kaija Saariaho's Adjö, for voice, flute, and guitar, requires the singer and instrumentalists to use a variety of extended techniques and is notable for the sense of frantic disjunction that it creates with instruments that are most often used for their lyrical quality. Vicissitudes No. 1, by Du Yun, which includes both Western and traditional Chinese instruments, is characterized by frenzied anxiety, but has an expanse of serene equipoise at its center. The ensemble plays with exquisite precision, understanding, and fierce energy and engagement; this is a group to watch out for. The sound is exceptionally clear, crisp, and well-defined.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins