Ensemble Bash

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Launch Review

by Brian Olewnick

Ensemble Bash is a British percussion quartet modeled very much along the lines of other small classical chamber groups wanting to follow in the successful footsteps of ensembles like the Kronos Quartet. Get a few hip-looking young musicians, develop a repertoire rich in catchy pieces that won't unnecessarily put off a pop-listening audience and, voila!, yet one more bland performing ensemble to make contemporary music more palatable, if less nutritious. Launch begins with a group improvisation modeled around West African themes and includes another Ghanaian-derived piece, both of which make one yearn for the original source. Michael Daugherty contributes an aggravating post-mod composition organized around John Barry-type themes, and ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland also contributes a piece; as in several of the pieces here, both utilize standard pop or jazz rhythms that deaden any possible interest that might otherwise have been generated. Nick Hayes' Shining Through, for example, begins as an intriguing study in sustained marimba and vibes clusters, before needlessly venturing perilously close to smooth jazz territory when the drum set emerges. Only Howard Skempton's artfully minimal Shiftwork and Peter Garland's calmly resonant Apple Blossom, two of the sparest compositions on the disc, succeed entirely. For newcomers wanting to experience contemporary percussion music, this disc offers a very easy entryway, but listeners expecting something along the rigorous lines of Xenakis or Tenney would be well advised to steer clear.

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