Steve Reich: Pulse/Quartet (Nonesuch/Universal)

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Quartet: Fast Part 3
Steve Reich: Pulse/Quartet (Nonesuch/Universal)

As much in the vanguard of tape manipulation and phasing as he was in minimalism, Steve Reich increasingly brought a refined musicality to his larger projects like Tehillim and his opera The Cave which explored his Jewish heritage with historical resonances.

In some of his work – especially the more minimalist and layered pieces – he is not that far from a kind of baroque-cum-Romantic electronica (without the electronics).

It might be a stretch to think that those who come to these two pieces – Pulse a 14-minute composition for strings, wind instruments, electric bass and piano; the three part Quartet for pianos and vibes – from the electronica end might actually find some kinship.

But Pulse – from 2015 and played by the International Contemporary Ensemble – with its evolving lines and repetition could easily be adapted from, or for, synths and make for an engaging piece two steps up from ambient and just a notch down from fist-tightening tension in its central passages.

Quartet from 2013 and played by the Colin Currie Group come in three parts, the first and final as “fast” and the central and shorter piece as “slow”.

The opening and final sections are delightfully quizzical jigsaws of piano lines and interwoven vibes with a sprightly feel, the tension in the former at times brings to mind what Reich achieved with his exception Different Trains. But equally it is a long way distant from that disquieting piece.

The central “slow” section is a four minute reverie amidst the haste elsewhere on this short (32 minute) release, and to some extent provides a breathing space and a chance to let the mind simply wander along with the ringing, high vibes and the sense of space it affords.

Now in his early Eighties, Steve Reich can reflect on a vast and influential body of work, but here he shows no sign of resting and -- if some of this seems to canvas familiar territory -- it is worth remembering he's the guy who pegged it out and created within it.

Elsewhere has an archive interview with Steve Reich here and a career overview from 2008 here.

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