Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite (Nonesuch)

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Alarm Will Sound: Radio Rewrite, 4, Slow
Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite (Nonesuch)

When composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich objected the label "minimalism" being applied to their music -- which was, frankly, minimal -- you couldn't help but feel the sense of special pleading about a self-inflicted wound.

The word was perfectly adequate and although they might have felt it limited the perception of them (and they did explore other less reductive areas with great panache) the label was still perfectly serviceable.

How better to explain Glass' Koyaanisqatsi for example?

And on this album of Reich's music performed by Jonny Greenwood, Vicky Chow and Alarm Will Sound, it's hard to deny this is minimalism in excelsior.

The first four pieces on the nine-track album are re-versions of his famous Electric Counterpoint pieces from almost 25 years ago (which were commissioned by jazz-and-elsewhere guitarist Pat Metheny) played with alarming brilliance by Greenwood, and then a new look at his Six Pianos (from '73) woven into a single mesmerising and intense 13-minute Piano Counterpoint played by Chow.

These are extraoridniary in themselves -- minimal in that their repeated phrases weave with white knuckle intensity and a single phrase moved, dropped or added is like a tectonic shift.

But for people who recognise his name -- Greenwood, avant-guitarist in Radiohead -- attention alights on the new title track pieces which source Radiohead and are played by the ensemble Alarm Will Sound.

Greenwood had previously performed Reich's Electric Counterpount so almost by way of a nod back, Reich explored Radiohead's music and came upon pieces -- Everything in it's Right Place from Kid A and Jigsaw Falling Into Place from In Rainbows -- as source inspiration, although Radiohead fans won't hear those pieces quoted directly.

Radio Rewrite -- especially the slow second movement and the elevating, almost gypsy sprightliness of the third movement -- is less furrow-browed and frantic than the other archetypal Reichean works.

But here's truth: if you have never ventured down this loop road-cum-sidestreet before . . . beware. Radiohead mean nothing here.

This is for the serious minded diligent listener/the serious minded diligent listener/the merious sinded diligent listener/merious sinded diligent listener/merious sinded liligent distener/liligent distener/serious minded diligent listener/diligent listener/liligent distener . . .

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