Various Artists

Chris Dench: Beyond Status Geometry

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English composer Chris Dench (born in 1953) settled in Australia in 1989 and has gone on to become a leader in that country's avant-garde movement. The works recorded here, for percussion and piano, are intensely complex in their construction and notation, but they are completely engaging aurally and colorful, enigmatic, endlessly inventive, and beguilingly mercurial. Much of the appeal of Dench's music comes from its visceral directness; it has a rhythmic impetuosity and gestural spontaneity that can sound improvisatory, but never random, and repeated listenings reveal a carefully considered control of structure. His music isn't tonal, but he successfully avoids the grayness that can characterize atonal music. Instead, he creates sensuous, shimmering aggregates that unpredictably morph from one color and texture to another. The surface of his music is so attractive that it may well appeal to listeners who are generally put off by modern music. The various soloists and ensembles play with utter conviction and passion, and the solidity and musicality of their performances add to the effectiveness of the CD. The sound is generally good, although there are some ancillary performance noises -- page turns, shuffling -- that may bother audiophile purists, but are simply part of the performing experience.

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