Minimalist composer Steve Reich turned 82 during 2018. (Interestingly, his musical peers Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Philip Glass all became octogenarians in the last couple of years too).
So Reich has been pursuing his singular exploration of repetition and phase for a lifetime.
Pulse/Quartet was released this year on the Nonesuch label. It is an album of two compositions: the fourteen minute “Pulse” and three movement suite “Quartet” (18 minutes).
The first side has a lovely melody weaving through and rising above the layered arrangement, it poignantly evokes the opening of Mike Oldfield’s Incantations (1978); slightly disconcerting—eerie even—but certainly not unpleasant. It is a lovely piece, almost too pretty to be taken seriously for some commentators. I find it uplifting.
“Quartet” is equally accessible, sandwiching a slow middle section between two energetic movements. The instrumentation of two pianos and two vibraphones give a light, effervescent feel as tempos shift and tonalities stutter. The slow section evokes nothing so much as Chick Corea and Gary Burton sharing a transcendent dream.
An accessible entry point into the world of minimalism for the newcomer, or an unchallenging but enjoyable addition to the aficionado’s Reich collection.
Steve Reich – Pulse / Quartet [Nonesuch 2018]
“Pulse” – International Contemporary Ensemble / “Quartet” – Colin Currie Group
January is about reflecting on a selection of Vinyl Connection’s acquisitions during the preceding year. Some are 2018 releases, others are re-issues that appeared during the past 12-month, others are simply albums that caught my ear. Oh, and there will be a part two of the 1969 archive post.