Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite (Nonesuch)

 |   |  1 min read

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 . . .

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

U2: No Line on the Horizon (Universal)

U2: No Line on the Horizon (Universal)

Just a thought: would U2 be better without Bono? That isn't a comment on his ego and political activities -- which I have no issue with, everyone has an ego and I think he's done some decent... > Read more

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Junky Star (Lost Highway)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Junky Star (Lost Highway)

The name "Ryan Bingham" has been getting a lot of eartime recently -- it was the name of George Clooney's character in the movie Up in the Air. But more importantly in the real world... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Oyster Pie: A "firm favourite" as summer wanes

Oyster Pie: A "firm favourite" as summer wanes

The Bluff oyster season usually opens in March in New Zealand so people might be looking for something more to do with those big, rich delights than just eating them raw or with a splash of... > Read more

CECIL TAYLOR IN 1990: Florescent flights

CECIL TAYLOR IN 1990: Florescent flights

Genius is the word a lot of people use about Cecil Taylor – but words get pretty debased these days. (“Genius, that‘s like brilliant - but better, yeah?” ) So... > Read more