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Live @ NONCLASSICAL Volume #1
Gabriel Prokofiev: Intro – String Quartet N° 2 - IV
Henry Cowell: Ostinato pianissimo
David Maric: Run Chime
Tansy Davies: Neon
Mark Anthony Turnage: GG part II
Abattoir: Shhhh...
The House of Bedlam: The Bilberry Hill Shim-Sham (duo version)
John Matthias and Nick Ryan: Cortical Songs - IV
Will Dutta and Max de Wardener: Aerophobia (2010 live)
John Richards: Powder Puff
David Bloom: Duo for Violin and Cello
Tom Waits: What’s He Building?
Salvatore Sciarrino: Caprice N° 2
David Lang: Anvil Chorus
Anonymous: I Love You
John Cage: Second Construction

The George Barton Ensemble, Ryedale Players, Azalea Ensemble, The G Project, Abattoir, The House of Bedlam, The Elysian Quartet, Will Dutta, Dirty Electronics, Ossian Ensemble, The Mercury Quartet, Aisha Orazbayeva, James Larter
Recording: The Scala/The Macbeth/The Cargo Club/The Horse and Groom/Hoxton Bar and Kitchen/The Troy Bar, London; Le Poisson Rouge, New York City (2008-2013) – 79’ 37
NONCLASSICAL #NONCLSS019 – No liner notes (Distributed by Naxos of America)

Live @ Nonclassical is a collection of live performances by musicians and composers who are game for performing in trendy clubs and venues in London and New York. Recorded from 2008 to 2013 and produced by composer-percussionist Gabriel Prokofiev, this is a muscular, wily and sometimes head-scratching mix of 17 tracks that represents some of the vanguard of this growing alternative classical scene. Below is a random sampling of highlights and a few lows.

The CD opens at The Scala, with the rowdy Ostinato pianissimo performed by The George Barton Ensemble. The piece is a dizzying sound tunnel of hammers, xylophone and keyboard that lulls you into a metronomic trance with a club contact high and twilight zone chaser.

Hoxton Bar and Kitchen’s cabaret chanteuse Linda Hirst is hilariously confiding on Tom Waits’ What’s He Building? with accompaniment by The Mercury Quartet. The musicians give scary musical clues with their instruments about what this object might be while Hurst ponders whether the neighbor “spent a little time in jail… he’s always whistling” as woodwinds eerily creep inside the music. Waits’ droll art song is brilliantly delivered.

Neon (The Cargo Club) by Tansy Davies carves out an amusing percussive soundscape, this time more earthbound with tick-tocky cymbals, a cab stop clarinet, scaly strings and basement electronica, performed with precision abandon by Azalea Ensemble. Another clangy work is David Lang’s Anvil Chorus expressed by James Larter at The Macbeth with a sound matrix of blocks, bells, clangs and unidentifiable instruments to conjure percussive architecture that seems to build in front of one’s ears. The assaultive Shhhh… by Abattoir burbles in on vocals that boils to scabrous human caws with distorted incantations that sound like outtakes from Yoko Ono’s 1960’s records or discarded demonic effects from The Exorcist. A little goes a long way with primal scream theory, no matter how brave the delivery.

Mark Anthony Turnage’s The G Project is a short cello dirge with vibe counterpoint that hints at something bigger. A harrowing existential clamoring, the desperate cello fends off torrential strings. Along with the audience, I was unsure when the piece had concluded. In contrast, there are the elegantly assessable bent string notes that ebb and flow elegantly in Salvatore Sciarrino’s Caprice N° 2 played by Aisha Orazbayeva at The Troy Bar. Aerophobia by Will Dutta and Max de Wardener is a ride on a derelict piano that wends over spacey electronica sonar and trips over a calypso bar. It is a fine companion to the propulsive The House of Bedlam’s The Bilberry Hill Shim-Sham (duo version) with its fiery art rock sonata of raw musicality.

String Quartet N° 2 is Gabriel Prokofiev’s volcanic fugue performed by The Elysian Quartet. Prokofiev’s time-splitting density fades, but it doesn’t completely vanish. Rather, it resurfaces into a hyper drive finale which was clearly a hit at Le Poisson Rouge in New York.

Another stunner is The George Barton Ensemble’s incandescent 2013 performance of Second Construction by abstract guru musician, John Cage. This closer alone is worth the price of the disc. Cage’s exemplary vistas of infinite harmonic and chromatic logic will propel one into an uncharted musical universe.

Lewis J. Whittington




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