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TAK Ensemble — Ghost Layers - TAK Plays Miller
(New Focus Recordings FCR253, 2020, CD/DL)

by Henry Schneider, Published 2020-10-04

Ghost Layers - TAK Plays Miller Cover art

Scott L. Miller is an American composer best known for his elecro-acoustic chamber music and ecosystemic performance pieces. Scott’s new album is a collaboration with the TAK Ensemble, a quintet that delivers energetic and virtuosic performances of contemporary classical music. TAK’s first collaboration with Scott was in 2015 on his piece “Lovely Little Monster.” The TAK Ensemble is Laura Cocks (flute), Marina Kifferstein (violin), Charlotte Mundy (voice), and Ellery Trafford (percussion). On Ghost Layers: TAK Plays Miller, Scott and the TAK Ensemble are joined by Meaghan Burke (cello), Tristan McKay (piano), and Joshua Rubin (clarinet and bass clarinet). The seven pieces range from the raucous to the sublime. The album kicks off with “Accretion” that was inspired by the process of growth through the gradual coalescence of matter. “Accretion” is an avant-garde amalgamation of bells, strings, piano, percussion, and unidentifiable acoustic instruments that slowly builds layers of random sounding patterns. Composing began with Scott’s spectral analysis of his field recordings of the frozen High Falls on the Grand Portage Trail and lapping ice flows in the Grand Marais Bay. The second track is “Eidolon,” an ambient drone swelling over time that culminates with avant-garde layers of sound. An eidolon is a phantom and Scott based this piece on the drone he heard during a transatlantic flight that he imagined was a phantom. The third piece is “Chimera No. 2,” named for a fantastic or illusory dream, suggesting the surreal. Sizzling electronics, plucked strings, and scraping sounds combine in seemingly random patterns. The next three tracks are different movements of “Katabasis for Four Instruments, More or Less.” “Katabasis” is a mournful sounding composition with many pregnant pauses, and is the only work on the album without any electronic sounds, but lots of signal processing and sonic manipulation. “Katabasis” is an amorphous piece that does not demand your attention. It is contemplative and relaxing music. And the album closes with a revised recording of “Lovely Little Monster.” If you were lulled to a false sense of security by “Katabasis,” the crashing raucous “Lovely Little Monster” demands that you wake up! There are multiple things happening at once with sudden clusters of sound. Ghost Layers will not appeal to everyone, only the intrepid adventurous listener. Approach with caution.

Filed under: New releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): TAK Ensemble

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