James McVinnie: organ; Nadia Sirota: viola; Chris Thompson: marimba; Simon Wall: tenor
A little befuddlement knock-knocks when a release comprising scores by a single composer – Nico Muhly, in this occasion – is attributed to the main performer, however the technical endowments of organist and keyboardist McVinnie would alone warrant shelter from tackiness. But – let’s not get overly prissy and see what Cycles is about. Thirteen tracks total: four for solo church organ, then a pair of duets (with Sirota in this writer’s darling episode “Slow Twitchy Organs”, with Thompson in the final “Beaming Music”). The central section is taken by the “Seven O Antiphon Preludes”, all of them featuring Wall’s lonesomely melismatic tenor preceding a response/sequel by McVinnie and his digital wisdom, the whole in the sanctitude of outspread natural reverberations.
Variable degrees of complexity (and relative worth) for an album whose best asset is perhaps its capability of inhabiting the totality of a listening location even at cautious levels of volume. Long-distance (read “sciolistic”) affiliations: Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass circa Music In Similar Motion/Music In Fifths (with a smidgen of added tridimensionality). Please do not believe for a moment that I will have the nerve to type the cognomen of a certain John Sebastian, undesirous to be sued by any foundation whatsoever. Quoting from the liners: “Much of Muhly’s work aspires to a kind of pop-art superflatness”. I don’t think that there are fitter words to formulate my opinions on this material, though “superflatness” does not really seem an appropriate term remembering foregone beauties such as Mothertongue on this same imprint. Anyhow: when the bus I was traveling on this morning at 7AM was attempting to pierce the local countryside’s thick October mist, the inspiration felt while enjoying the record in semi-darkness was authentic. As always, one just needs the right context to watch small things becoming precious.