Gavin Bryars: A Man in a Room, Gambling

Gavin Bryars / Gavin Bryars Ensemble

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Gavin Bryars: A Man in a Room, Gambling Review

by Brian Olewnick

The five variations of the title piece find Bryars returning somewhat to the more overtly experimental, not to say whimsical, aspects of his earliest work. They take the form of brief instructions in the fine art of cardsharping, with musical accompaniment, to be broadcast over radio during unoccupied stretches of airtime. A cultured, sometimes drolly amused, Spanish-accented voice announces "good evening" at the beginning of each section, then proceeds to give detailed instructions on dealing from the bottom of the deck, voiding oneself of an unwanted card, and other deceptions. All the while, Bryars' typically moody music rolls along behind him, often with dramatic flourishes investing the instructions with a surreal kind of urgency. The pieces are both effective and wryly humorous, especially if one imagines them suddenly issuing from a car radio late at night. The three works that complete the album are not very dissimilar from Bryars' general output since the mid-80's: somber, hazily romantic ruminations over minimalist derived rhythmic patterns. "Les Fiancailles" does possess a lovely yearning quality very reminiscent of parts of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" that makes it stand out from the rest.

blue highlight denotes track pick