BEYOND. Los Angeles Percussion Quartet (Matt Cook, Justin DeHart, Nick Terry, Cory Hills). Sono Luminus DSL-92214, 2 CDs, 1 Pure Audio Blu-Ray disc.
By Richard S. Ginell
DIGITAL REVIEW — Last spring’s Reykjavik Festival in Los Angeles was just one example of a burgeoning series of links between the city’s new music scene and that of what is geographically L.A.’s polar (pun intended) opposite, Iceland.
This set of discs is another – a gathering of five Los Angeles or Los Angeles-linked and Icelandic composers under the aegis of the progressive-minded Los Angeles Percussion Quartet. (Never mind that it was recorded in a studio in Virginia!)
However different these composers may be if their entire corpuses are taken into account, the pieces selected here leave the impression of lockstep unity. There is minimalism, a leisurely timescale, mostly spare textures at an often whisper-level volume, a sense of distant places that the Reykjavik festival conveyed. It could all have been designated as one long suite for percussion, and few would be the wiser.
The set starts out with pieces by a pair of the hottest Icelandic composers on the scene. Daníel Bjarnason’s Qui Tollis consists of bookends of the faintest tinkling sounds flanking a core section of massive battering bass drums. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Aura is purely a mood piece, the cool dull thuds of metallic percussion against simulations of sand and wind played pianissimo throughout.
Christopher Cerrone – who actually operates out of Brooklyn – checks in with Memory Palace, a suite-within-this-suite of five little installations where three quiet pieces (“Merriman,” “Foxhurst,” and “Claremont”) are separated by two others (“Power Lines” and “L.I.E.” – presumably meaning the Long Island Expressway) whose motors thrum along more vigorously. Ellen Reid, now a Sound Investment composer with the L.A. Chamber Orchestra, contributes Fear – Release, a delicately and sparely-constructed forest of delicate chimes and mallet instruments.
Far and away the longest item of the batch at nearly 40 minutes is Andrew McIntosh’s I Hold the Lion’s Paw, which serves as kind of a summary and an expansion of what we heard from the previous four composers. Much of it is nearly empty space, with brief stretches of drums or tuned gongs turning up the volume level momentarily. Patience is a virtue in navigating its sprawl.
The package includes two CDs – McIntosh’s piece occupies the second disc all by its lonesome – and a single Pure Audio Blu-ray disc of the same program with 5.1 and even 9.1 surround sound capability. The sound quality, as heard on the CDs, is stunning in its pristine clarity even at barely-perceptible volume levels, and the aforementioned drums will give the woofers in your speakers the workout of their lives.
Richard S. Ginell writes regularly about music for the Los Angeles Times, and is also the Los Angeles correspondent for American Record Guide and the West Coast regional editor for Classical Voice North America.