A sad melancholia that also strangely exudes hopefulness are the juxtaposing emotions expressed by pianist Wayne Horvitz and his Four Plus One Ensemble on this, their second release collectively. The music, composed by Horvitz while spending two months in central Italy, is quite neo-classical and modern chamber in stance and style, but also borrows on film noir, improvised jazz and third stream, electronica and rock musics. With violin and viola played by Eyvind Kang, trombonist Julian Priester, sound text artist Tucker Martine and multi-instrumentalist Reggie Watts, Horvitz creates soundscapes that are elegant and elegiac. There is a loose sense of folly and a circus-like atmosphere, but mostly of unrequited romance mixed with a wide-eyed feeling of wonder and impending discovery -- or danger. It is music Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, or Nino Rota would likely enjoy and approve of. The opening pieces "Crispin & Lisa's Duet" and "Sweeter Than the Day" establish this concept firmly, as a traipsing minimal framework directs introspective piano, violin, and trombone surrounded by probing electronics. It's a quietly arresting, haunting reference point. The more beat-oriented pieces "Julian's Ballad" and "Willy's Music" (the latter used for a Seattle stage production of Death of a Salesman) are firmly dedicated to 4/4 bass and drum style, but take it out. In the case of the "Julian's Ballad" it's a tape loopy, organ-driven expansiveness quite reminiscent of street-smart mid-period Carla Bley, while "Willy's Music" is an industrial juggernaut with a skittering base from the main instruments. At times more French quadrille than Italian aria on the title track, using a diffused free waltz motif for "People Just Float," and getting into a 6/8 groove underpinning the backwards loops and baritone sax of Skerik upping the ante in dynamics at the second half of "Leave Here Now," you get a general feeling of restrained restlessness, even quiet desperation, especially from the great trombonist Priester, who is wondrous throughout. This style of thoroughly modern music teeters on a nostalgic, rustic, days-gone-by feeling, as reflected by the men's bowery and women's club black-and-white cover photos. The intriguing music world of Horvitz exists as both cultures somehow meet on an imaginary plane, and it's in a universe well worth entering.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos