Barbary Coast, the debut album from New York-based ensemble Red Light New Music, features works by the group’s founding composers: Christopher Cerrone, Ted Hearne, Vincent Raikhel, Liam Robinson, and Scott Wollschleger. These works represent ten years of collaboration between the composers and performers, and showcase the collective’s imaginative approach to contemporary chamber music.
Vincent Raikhel: “Cirques.” Droning, almost tuning up, resolving to minor-key hocketing dances in fine post-minimalist style. Good introduction to ensemble and the contemporary idiom.
Liam Robertson: “Chamber Concerto.” Features my friend Yegor Shevtsov on piano (he gave me this CD). “Sonata,” “Hymn,” “Rondo.” Goofy, virtuosic, extended techniques: handclaps and slide whistles? That sounds terrible, but Robertson is a serious composer who musters a coherent argument. Cool polyrhythms. “Hymn” perhaps most impressive movement with tasty tunes and spread counterpoint.
Christopher Cerrone: “The Night Mare.” After the initial sting I’m not even sure what I’m listening to. Timpani maybe and…? Dread and sorrow, at any rate. Eventually a kind of mysterious B-flat minor tune in piano/percussion loops around the roil and rumble. Accelerando ensues, dissipates, races off page. Compelling.
Ted Hearne: “Crispy Gentlemen.” Punk-rock high modernism: Atonal, pointillist, banging drums. Bass clarinet feature! I would dig this more live, on headphones I get a little tired before the 12 minutes is up. Still an intriguing listen, though.
Scott Wollschleger, “Brontal No. 3.” Four similar movements, a kind of brutal pocket viola concerto. For me the highlight of the disc. Wow. This is some serious madness. Alternating microtonal monumental sonorities conjure Lovecraftian visions. The outraged viola “sings” stunted melancholy.
I’ll be looking out for more Wollschleger. There is fair amount of piano music for me to explore, including something on Ivan Ilic’s recent The Transcendalist. I’ve heard Ilic’s recording of the left-hand only Godowsky-Chopin paraphrases and was impressed. I’ll be investigating this disc and the rest of Ilic’s records soon; for now, kudos to Ilic to adding Wollschleger to the distinguished company of Scriabin, Feldman, and Cage. Wollschleger’s “Music Without Metaphor” is the dead intersection of Chopin and Feldman and simply a lovely listen as well.