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
Alarm Will Sound's recording of Steve Reich's monumental orchestral/choral works The Desert Music and Tehillim, released on the Cantaloupe label in 2002, greatly benefits from the group's close connections with the composer: the ensemble's conductor, Alan Pierson, and several of the performers studied at the Eastman School with Brad Lubman, a conductor frequently enlisted by Reich. Also, Pierson's arrangements, which reconcile the chamber and orchestral versions that exist for both works, were prepared in close consultation with the composer; thus, this may well be the definitive recording of these pieces. Brilliantly sonorous in their climaxes – the burst of light near the end of Desert Music, the "Alleluias" that close Tehillim – the players also articulate Reich's intricate canonic textures with nimble precision. Voices and strings are always an Achilles heel within Reich's percussive textures (leading him to eliminate part doublings in favor of giving each line to a lone, amplified performer), but here the singers and strings maintain an impressive rhythmic vitality. This knack for precision carries over to the pristine recording, as well, which, for good or ill, was digitally recorded and heavily edited. Still, it makes up in energy and clarity what it might lack in performative spontaneity.