John Shiurba

Triplicate

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This is a stunningly rich and powerful release, the kind you will immediately hate or fall in love with. John Shiurba has assembled an impressive West Coast octet, featuring vocalists Lara Bruckmann and Morgan Guberman, drummer Gino Robair, and bassist Matthew Sperry (among others), and conducts them through five of his tortuous compositions. Hearing the violent, sharp outbursts, jagged edges, complex contrapuntal lines, and eerie use of operatic vocals in the opener, "Adobe," the listener is immediately reminded of Frank Zappa's orchestral writing on 200 Motels. Further listening reveals how true the resemblance is, but also how insufficient it turns out to be. Shiurba's writing pushes this side of Zappa's oeuvre into deeper territory, exploring instrumental textures ("Rita"), phonemic nonsense ("Short Reels"), and lyricism. Bruckmann and Guberman deliver a riveting performance throughout the set, their technical virtuosity completed by genuine passion for the material and, in Guberman's case, an in-your-face approach strongly reminiscent of Phil Minton's interpretations. Each piece is a collaboration with a different lyricist, adding a certain variety to Shiurba's otherwise homogenous approach. Some will interpret the previous sentence as a reproach, but the similarity of these five pieces actually makes for a constantly thrilling listen. Several other composers have attempted this kind of music, but very few have been able to match Zappa's flair and make it sound like more than an academic exercise. With Triplicate, John Shiurba certainly did.

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