Robert Black / Lisa Moore / Talujon Percussion Quartet / Matthew Welch

Julia Wolfe: Dark Full Ride

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The music of Julia Wolfe, one of the founders, along with Michael Gordon and David Lang, of Bang on a Can, has the sound frequently associated with that organization -- an amalgam of styles and trends including minimalism, experimentalism, Western classical, collage, jazz, and world musics -- often tied together with a rhythmic drive derived from rock. Full Dark Ride, a collection of pieces dating from 1993 to 2008, is characteristic Wolfe. The subtitle of the album is "Music in Multiples," and it aptly describes the pieces, each written for a homogenous ensemble featuring a single instrument, ranging in size from four to nine parts. Three of the performances are overdubbed, with a single player performing all the parts. The density of textures undifferentiated by instrumental variety tends to create a timbral blockiness that Wolfe handles more successfully in some pieces than in others. The most impressive is the darkly powerful Stronghold, for eight double basses, played by Robert Black. It's a minimalist work in two movements, the first of which features fast repeated notes and tremolandos and is similar in effect to the first movement of Adams' Shaker Loops, but with a darker, deeper tone, and the second, while still dense and primal, has a more melodic character. LAD delves into territory that rarely been explored: extended instrumental techniques for bagpipes, much of it here involving pitch bending and glissandos. Its nine parts are played by Matthew Welch. The listener's response may have most to do with his or her appreciation for the instrument, but the distinctive timbres Wolfe creates are memorably melancholy. Dark Full Ride, for four drumsets, played by Talujon Percussion Quartet is rhythmically inventive, but its restricted timbral range and loud volume make it somewhat aurally taxing. The sound throughout is vibrant and lifelike. The CD should appeal to fans of Bang on a Can, particularly for those with an interest in new developments in minimalism and post-minimalism.

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