MATTHEW WELCH – Blarvuster

Tzadik

Lots of influences characterize Blarvuster, Matthew Welch’s second CD on Tzadik, but the end result is not exactly what one would expect. Let’s start with the incontestable prowess of the musicians – rightly defined “stellar” by the press blurb – for included in this project are – among others – the talents of people such as Mary Halvorson, Leah Paul, Karen Waltuch, Emily Manzo, Ches Smith, Mike Pride (we’re quoting both drummers because the extremely fragmented rhythmic propulsion typifying the bulk of this music is indeed a difficult proposition that all the players solve quite impressively). Welch himself – a fine bagpiper and saxophonist – is not denied as far as the creation of tortuous zigzags and whirling embellishments is concerned. Regrettably, the stylistic ascendancies heard in the record greatly surpass the truly unusual ideas. What the label defines as “expanding on the language of minimalism with honesty and originality” is contradicted, for instance, by the evident similarity of “Canntaireachd Masolah” with the early work of, say, Mikel Rouse’s Broken Consort (in turn, of incontrovertible Reichian descent). Translation: integrity is not excluded, but nothing really innovative is found in the instrumental scores, sudden bursts into more odd-metered half-Irish, half-Indonesian fits notwithstanding. And, I’m sorry to report, the vocals (which the composer calls “idioglossia”, namely “vocables or made up language” according to a Celtic tradition) are what ultimately makes whatever excellence there is collapse. In fact, the leader delivers his lines in a Speedy Gonzales-on-steroids tone that, especially in the very melodic third and fourth movements of the “opera”, produces the sort of hilarious effects typical of the most insubstantial kind of Southern Mediterranean pop. A shame, in consideration of the performers’ technical grounding.

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