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Superlative Playing

Music from the
Glass Farm Ensemble

innova    innova 700

In Four - Glass Farm Ensemble. © 2008 Glass Farm Ensemble

Glass Farm Ensemble takes its name from a venue important to it and its make-up from the composition by Louis Andriessen which opens the disc. That piece, Hout, is a close, fast canon requiring -- and showing off -- impeccably precise playing by all four members of the group.

Listen -- Louis Andriessen: Hout
(track 1, 0:00-0:50) © 2008 Glass Farm Ensemble

Saxophone (soprano, tenor or baritone), electric guitar, piano and percussion is a common grouping in jazz but is distinctly uncharacteristic for the world of contemporary art music. Glass Farm Ensemble's resulting problem -- in fact, their only apparent problem -- is that faced by every unorthodox instrumental grouping: lack of repertoire. They have had to commission every item other than the piece which brought them together, and their composers, in turn, are torn between imitating that one piece and developing whole new ways of deploying the line-up.

Hout is followed by a composition by the group's pianist and leader, Yvonne Troxler, which explores textures available to the ensemble. The first movement of Kaleidoskop is like the introduction to a jazz ballad, without the ballad -- the sax ruminates for a couple of minutes over a static piano accompaniment; the second is faster and imitative, in the manner of Hout; and the third is pointillist and angular. They are about the right length at two minutes each.

Peter Herbert's Deafening Silence begins disjointedly but the fragments gradually reveal their relationships and coalesce into a jazz-influenced stream of consciousness.

Listen -- Peter Herbert: Deafening Silence
(track 5, 9:16-11:10) © 2008 Glass Farm Ensemble

'Holonyms' is a made-up word which, according to the composer, 'invites one into the experience of making sense of a word never heard before ... which is analogous in a way to our experience of constructing meanings from music.' As a piece, it is all about percussion textures with sustained dissonances in the background. It is mostly rather gentle and quite attractive, if a little aimless.

Finally, the title track does for gospel music what Deafening Silence does for jazz, recycling clichés of the genre into something far more abstract. It is a successful high-energy piece.

Listen -- Wolfgang Heiniger: In Four
(track 7, 0:00-0:59) © 2008 Glass Farm Ensemble

The new repertoire written for Glass Farm Ensemble so far is interesting and their superlative playing is enough to make up for any weaknesses in it. In Four is a very impressive début album.

Copyright © 31 December 2008 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia



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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews