Post-review – weirdly brutal American minimalism

(New Amsterdam Records)
Friend’s precise piano solos are amplified by Begin’s intense harmonics, and are all the better for their violent overtones

Post- is technically a duet between New York pianist David Friend and soundtrack composer Jerome Begin, but it actually sounds like a solo piano being sonically reflected through a series of wobbly fairground mirrors. Friend plays precise, metrical, minimalist solos, while Beginning uses electronics to process these solos in real time – often amplifying and enhancing each note’s natural higher harmonics.

On the eight-minute rolling, a series of unresolved, ambiguous chords are played as rippling arpeggios, but the resonant, high-end harmonics produced by each note seem to develop a life of their own as the piece goes on, shimmering like wind chimes and written in echo. Like Thunder is a piece of incredibly fast minimalism where every piano note is put through more and more electronic effects as the track goes on, resembling a filtered disco version of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase, until the piano noises mutate into a barrage of chirrups and chimes . Cluster and Dissolve is a slow, minor-key waltz, so heavily distorted that it sounds like it’s being played on a sinking ghost ship; while Gated Memories resembles one of Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert improvisations, accompanied by the burble of amplified harmonics.

An accompanying essay by Friend claims that this is an album of “queer music” – one that is about “disrupting binaries” and breaking down “highly gendered” classifications in classical music – although, to these ears, it invokes lots of stereotypically masculine sonic archetypes. The opening track, These Patterns, is a classic piece of additive minimalism, where a simple Lydian scale keeps increasing in length, but it’s played with the speed and intensity of thrash metal. Another piece of disorientating minimalism, Quick, has similarly violent overtones – like Philip Glass on PCP. This is weirdly brutal music that is miles from the polite, effete and blankly asexual world of the American minimalists, and is all the better for it.

Also out this month

In a similar vein is Kernschmelze III: Concerto for Improvised Cello (Caliban Records), where virtuoso cellist Kate Short It seems to be battling against a barrage of found sounds, ambient drones and grinding industrial effects being expert by veteran poet (and Cras drummer) Penny Rimbaud.

Five Minutes For Earth (Azica Records) features harpist Yolanda Kondonassis playing 15 solos by contemporary composers, lurching from the plangent and the spooky to the nouveau romantic and the dreamily hypnotic.

Object/Animal (Sideband Records) sees Chicago’s Ensemble Dal Niente playing commissions by three composers – a piece of horror-movie orchestras by Tortoise’s Jeff Parker; a collage of disorientating drones, beats and discordant voicings from Turkish composer Murat Çolak; and a haunting vocal-led work by LJ White.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo