David Crowell: Point/Cloud review – minimalism that sparkles with joy

Estimated read time 3 min read

Crowell has been an in-demand musician around New York for more than a decade – playing saxophone, flute and guitars with the likes of the Philip Glass Ensemble, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Steve Reich and in his own outfits Empyrean Atlas, Spirit Stout and Eco-Tonal – but Point/Cloud foregrounds his work as a composer. Here he delegates performance duties to several very different ensembles – other guitarists, a percussion troupe, a singer and cellist – to create a diverse suite unified by a singular vision.

Cover art for Point/CloudView image in fullscreen

Minimalism is often robotic, repetitive and melodically stunted, but Crowell’s minimalism is wonderfully rich and harmonically complex: busy arpeggios sketch out dense, extended chords that constantly mutate and move in unexpected directions. The three-part title track, like Pacific Coast Highway, is a piece of baroque flamenco with Daniel Lippel multitracking multiple electric and nylon-strung guitars: it’s apparently inspired by Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint, but also nods to Vini Reilly and John Fahey.

In a completely different vein is the 15-minute opener, Verses For a Liminal Space, a piece of junkyard minimalism performed by the New York quartet the Sandbox Percussion. It starts as a clattering symphony of arrhythmic percussion, like a drummer falling down an endless staircase, and slowly foregrounds the serene, hypnotic harmonies of the marimbas and vibraphones, resolving as a piece of Eno-esque ambience. In yet another wildly different style is the closer 2 Hours In Zadar, a haunting duet that sets the woozy vocals and sketchy cello of Iva Casián-Lakoš alongside Crowell’s electronic drones. Throughout, Crowell constructs geometric structures that have a rare sense of kinetic energy: this is music that glistens, sparkles and dances with joy.

Also out this month

Grammy-winning LA-based drummer Amy Aileen Wood is best known for her work with the likes of Fiona Apple and her score for the Netflix documentary White Hot. Her solo debut, The Heartening (released 3 May, Colorfield Records), recalls the scrapheap jazz of Tom Waits’s Swordfishtrombones mixed with early Aphex Twin, with Apple among some intriguing guests. MMM (out now on Hallow Ground), by the Japanese composer and sound artist who goes by the name FUJI||||||||||TA, is an odd and disconcerting mix of slow, throbbing, gradually mutating solo pipe organ compositions and growling scat-singing. SSRI are Polish duo Sandra Mikolajczyk and Igor Gadomski. They describe their music as “the darker fringes of dub”, but their self-titled debut LP (released 29 April on Pointless Geometry) is a lot weirder than that: a series of subaquatic funereal dirges, using reverb effects, slowed-down drums, eerie vocals and distorted drones. Whale reggae, if you will.

Source: theguardian.com

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