Steve Reich is probably the most remix-ready of contemporary classical composers, which makes this project a good idea whose time should have come long ago. His minimalist twelve-tone symphonettes are constructed around trippy circular riffs that just beg to be sliced up into loops and juxtaposed against steely drum-machine rhythms. Happily, the nine mixmaster generals on Reich Remixed have radically different notions of how to go about doing this. The British duo Coldcut pile mushrooming synths and modern-primitive beats onto Reich's classic "Music for 18 Musicians," rattling his serene dreamscape with ambient-techno mayhem. Nobukazu Takemura taps into the becalming spirituality of "Proverb" by adding a gently pulsing electronic undertow and a soaring choirboy vocal. And, true to form, DJ Spooky delves into pure metal-machine music abstraction with his take on "City Life." Reich purists may take issue with Remixed, but if it leads a few inquiring minds to check out the original recordings, it's a mission accomplished. (RS 811)MARC WEINGARTEN
This collection of music for guitar, brought together by Jose Luis Bieito as the musical element of his music+image binomis, Reflections, possesses a delightful balance of sounds. These are flowing, pulsing, mostly gentle sounds that tend to soothe and calm the listener's mind. Sounds that - through a variety of compositional techniques - tend to be sustained in time; the effects of which can sometimes capture a listener’s attention, holding it inside an extended musical moment, like a spell. When heard while viewing the accompanying (provocative, sometimes disturbing) images, the sounds can serve an additional function: grounding the listener's reaction, enabling the passage of emotion; like electricity discharging through a lightening rod.
As more ensembles perform and record Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, its status as a minimalist masterpiece is increasingly affirmed. Ensemble Signal's 2015 release on Harmonia Mundi is one of several amazing performances that have matched Reich's original ECM New Series recording in technical brilliance and expressivity, and it has even earned the composer's approval for being, "…fast moving, spot on, and emotionally charged." Under the direction of Brad Lubman, Ensemble Signal maintains a relentlessly steady pulse and articulates the interlocking patterns with absolute precision, though the shifting tone colors are perhaps a little clearer in this performance than in other recordings. The microphone placement is not so close that individual instruments stand out, but there is enough separation of parts to allow some sense of direction and the orientation of the smaller sub-groups of pianos, xylophones, marimbas, strings, clarinets, and voices. This is a mesmerizing performance that will transfix listeners, and the music is so compelling that it will linger on well after the CD stops. Highly recommended.
If Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians is simply described in terms of its materials and organization – 11 chords followed by 11 pieces built on those chords – then it might seem utterly dry and monotonous. The actual music, though, is far from lackluster. When this recording was released in 1978, the impact on the new music scene was immediate and overwhelming. Anyone who saw potential in minimalism and had hoped for a major breakthrough piece found it here. The beauty of its pulsing added-note harmonies and the sustained power and precision of the performance were the music's salient features; and instead of the sterile, electronic sound usually associated with minimalism, the music's warm resonance was a welcome change. Yet repeated listening brought out a subtle and important shift in Reich's conception: the patterns were no longer static repetitions moving in and out of phase with each other, but were now flexible units that grew organically and changed incrementally over the course of the work.