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Sunday, March 19, 2006
New music from Daniel Lentz, Payton Macdonald and Melissa Hui
On the Leopard Altar
Daniel Lentz
various performers
Cold Blue Music

This is a reissue of an earlier LP, one that was produced by Yale Evelev, whom I remember as the guy at the old New Music Distribution Service who sold me a lot of independent LPs back in the old days. Lentz's music, to my ears, often sounds like a blend of David Borden and other minimalist-inspired composers. And that's not a bad thing.

On this album, which is nicely performed by musicians such as Jessica Lowe, Paul MacKey, Susan James, Dennis Parnell, David Kuehn, Arlene Dunlap and Daniel Lentz himself, there is a good mix of short pieces. The two sections that really grabbed me are Is It Love? and Wolf is Dead. Both set text in interesting ways, with a focus on individual phonemes that are manipulated in a formal process. Wolf is Dead reminds me a lot of John Adams, while Is It Love? is somewhat reminiscent of some of Reich's music. Lascaux is a piece for multiple wineglasses, and the liner notes indicate that aside from reverberation, no effects were added. The remainder of the album, On the Leopard Altar and Requiem, involve voices and keyboards much like Is It Love and Wolf is Dead, but I didn't find as much to interest me in these two works. Lentz's music is at times new age-ish, yet also retains much of the minimalist aesthetic, and there is certainly a good deal of worthwhile music on this album, even if not all of it is to one's liking.

Super Marimba
Payton MacDonald
Fever Pitch Records

I'd sum up this album this way:

  • The title reminds me of Soundgarden's SuperUnknown

  • The music is a cross between Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and other influences

  • One section seems to be taken right from Riley's Persian Surgery Dervishes

  • Most importantly, who cares about the influences...this is an incredible album, with a lot of engaging and utterly beautiful music.

I really like this album. MacDonald performs everything in real time using a single acoustic marimba, and from what I've read, with a single take and without the use of overdubbing or audio splicing. Yet the music sounds like a marimba ensemble---he achieves this through the use of amplification, looping pedals, delay pedals, distortion pedals, etc. MacDonald is a founding member of the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and has also studied the tabla with Pandit Sharda Sahai. Undoubtedly, the latter has had a significant influence on his work.

Overall, this is an extremely worthwhile and enjoyable album of new music in the Terry Riley vein. And again, despite the imitation, that's not bad.

and blue sparks burn
Melissa Hui

I'd never heard of music until recently, and was very intrigued to listen to this album. Hui, who currently resides in Montreal, write music for both Western and Eastern instruments (such as the pipa), although the majority of works on this album are scored for Western instruments. All of the pieces I liked, but none were particularly striking to me. They sounded fairly conventional; certainly pleasant enough, but not that distinctive or memorable. Perhaps I was hoping, or expecting, something more innovative or unusual, or at least something that made me feel something one way or the other. I just found the music bland, although others certainly may have other opinions. The performances certainly sounded exemplary, and the musicians seemed to give their all for the music, which is commendable.


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