Alex Mincek’s music – hitherto unknown to yours truly – transfuses several certitudes to those who experience its sinewy physicality. A simple search will furnish the questioning minds with everything they need to know in regard to Mincek’s jazz-rooted training as a consummate reedist, and his subsequent ventures as composer. Still, nothing is going to unwrap in advance the intelligent methods and the fascinating solutions to apparently unsolvable difficulties that Torrent features in abundant quantities.
The program comprises pieces of varying duration, from mere fifty seconds to the almost 18 minutes of the magnificent title track. The performers, all long-time artistic partners of Mincek, materialize his instructions with genuine love for what they’re conjuring up. I’m using the latter verb on purpose, for this material – whose general architecture is predetermined – does leave room for an instrumentalist’s attributes. A trademark “best of both worlds” situation, the results appearing to these ears as the lucid interpretation of a painstakingly notated score even when combinations of multiple factors require a performer’s idiosyncratic sentience.
Influences, I hear someone asking. Well, this writer is not qualified to act as a professor in that sense. For sure Mincek has strong opinions about how an assemblage of pitches should function when subjected to a set of new rules. Those ideas are remarkably improved by the intense focus given to diverse approaches on an instrument’s voice. In an interview with Sound American’s editor Nate Wooley, the deus ex machina declares: “I’ve found timbral issues to be very interesting: the number of ways one can notate timbres on an instrument that might be very exact or might provoke the instrumentalist to make something that is just in that ball park and might not be imagined by the composer but is just kind of a spur toward something different.”
This (roughly) translates into articulate “modern chamber” polyphonies (“Pendulum”, “Pneuma”), smaller-scale studies (“Harmonielehre”) or resonant murmurs conveying an extra-corporeal massiveness (the first half of “Torrent”). Only threatened at gunpoint I would utter a name – that of Elliott Sharp – that came to mind during segments where the rational aspects of the contrapuntal choices prevail upon the discrepant expressiveness of the subtler episodes (such as – for instance – “Harmonielehre I”, vaguely suggesting the basic principles of just intonation).
In any case the space of a review is too restricted to delineate the wide compass of colors, kinetics and overall sonic philosophy of this fine album, which deserves serious attentiveness over repeated spins. Against the superficiality of compulsory quietness Mincek is fighting the proverbial good fight, not allowing anyone to stick rhetorical labels on the body of a brain-stimulating work. Therefore, let yourselves in to determine the correct perspective of apprehension. The excellence is incontestable.