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Noah Creshevsky - Rounded with a Sleep

Noah Creshevsky - Rounded with a SleepNoah Creshevsky's work is testimony to the ongoing power of music.

Noah Creshevsky once said that the next Mozart might well come from the ranks of video gamers. That future hasn't yet come to pass, but Creshevsky's prediction has served as a potent reminder for him to prevent his music from ever growing stale or repetitive. In a discography which, after his defining 2003 album Hyperrealism, has grown with astounding speed and seemingly increasing ease, Rounded with a sleep may well be the closest he has come to his personal manifesto.

On the face of it, this is chamber music, written for solo performers or small, comparatively traditional ensemble settings. And yet, the sonic familiarity only serves to bring out the uniqueness and excitingly idiosyncratic nature of the underlying scores and concepts in ever sharper relief. On "What If", lightning-speed piano arpeggios are interlocked with gritty harpsichord figures with preternatural precision, creating a breathtaking race for an imaginary finish line. On "La Sonnambula", piano, vibraphone and clarinet are brimming with so much joi de vivre that each seems to be playing its own piece - yet the resulting fusion of melodic lines is of a seamless and shimmering textural quality. On "Lisa Barnard Redux", meanwhile, Chreshevsky weaves a tight, equally hypnotic and lively arrangement from words, thematic fragments, rhythmical scats and harmonic clusters, a whole world built entirely from one person's vocal chords.

The recording studio provides for the means of realising these ideas and making them sound credible, for an infinite array of possibilities and palettes. And yet, the creative spark still very much occurs within the communication between the composer and his audience. The most impressive instances are not the ones charged with technical virtuosity – although the supernaturally scintillating trills in the title piece are undeniably causing spikes in the listener's adrenalin levels – but those, when the music stops for a short pause of breath, comfortably resting in space for a moment before continuing.

Creshevsky may be interested in extending music beyond the humanly possible, but his goal is never to extend it beyond the human. If music has remained as relevant and potent as ever in the 21st century, then perhaps that is because there is something in the act of conceiving, performing and listening to it that still feels more profound than ripping through virtual video game corridors shooting up aliens. In a world where the term reality is increasingly loosing its meaning, Rounded with a sleep serves as a perfect reminder of why we should never let go of this power. - Tobias Fisher, Tokafi

American electoacoustic composer Creshevsky is probably best known for his appearance on various LPs from the Opus One label (which was run by the recently departed Max Schubel); pieces from which were later collected for a CD release in Japan on the EM Records label. At least that is how I know of his work. Since those days he's had a pair of discs each from Centaur Records and Tzadik. Keeping that trend, this is now his second CD on Pogus following 2008's split with If, Bwana entitled "Favorite Encores". This latest disc features seven compositions created between 2006 and 2011 with each focusing on a different soloist, seemingly as source material for electronically manipulated end products. Among the featured players are Sherman Friedland (clarinet), Lisa Barnard Kelley (voice), Stuart Isacoff (piano improvisations), Tomomi Adachi (voice), Juha Laitinen (cello), and on "The Kindness of Strangers" the one trio of the disc with Gary Heidt (voice and guitar), Rich Gross (lap steel/banjo) and Orin Buck (bass). Each piece evinces a busy, almost hyperactive in some cases, flow of the material, with a multitude of individual notes and tonal variations. In fact the hyper- prefix comes up in Creshevsky's liner notes as he explains his concept of Hyperrealism which is the mixture of real parts of our environment treated in exgerated, excessive or just plain hyper ways. So while the sound sources are acoustic in origin, the way they are assembled reminds me more of the approach of electroacoustic composition. One stated aim of this is to be able to take the performances beyond the limits of human abilities and create virtual super-virtuosos. This focus on individual sources is a bit of contrast to his earlier compositions which were often collages of disparate material, yet still retains some of the same internal logic. And I suppose keeping with his reputation for juxtaposition, two of the tracks do add what appears to be virtual instruments to the featured soloist and the opening, title track credits no performers, which points to the likelihood that all the sounds on that track are sampled. Probably the furtherest out track on the album is "Tomomi Adachi Redux II". The piece's titular vocalist might be known for his solo CD on Edition Omega Point, but his stylizations mostly clearly evoke a comparison to Chris Mann for me. "What If" also stands out for its arrangement of the hyperreal piano which heads towards the realm of Conlon Nancarrow yet don't ape his style.- Eric Lanzillotta, Bixobal

Noah Creshevsky is a man who cares about a correct interpretation, as one can tell even by noticing the refreshing precision of his writing; from the same communicative cloth comes the meticulousness that he applies to the process of creating music. Rounded With A Sleep – first solitary release for Al Margolis’ imprint – transmits a deep sense of attainment through a sequence of refined compositional frameworks. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate the fruits of Creshevsky’s juxtapositions; the most notable quality is a rare ability in turning complexity into glowing crystals of comprehensibility. The package of Hyperrealism – this is how the “genre” is called – incorporates hours, weeks and months of painstaking studio work. Still, our ears perceive an immediate luminousness, a mélange of clever temperament and soulful composure indicating the transition from mere divertissement to fine art.

As always, the starting points are samples of human and instrumental origin. From thousands of snippets, either utilized in their natural range or transposed, Creshevsky constructs pieces that clearly show his classical training as an essential background. In this composite world, where we can barely guess if an harpsichord is really an harpsichord (it might be an altered guitar, but it’s not a problem), sonic instances from diverse eras fuse like in a miracle, and the hyper-poly-a-tonality of several of those designs causes an attentive listener to vacillate across various stages of relative insecurity. We’re prevented from lying down and get comfortable, but – quite preposterously – receive positive stimuli exactly for that reason. There’s no time to ask “what was that?”, yet an omni-comprehensive vision of a whole is achieved at the end of each track. You just need to play the record again to better fix certain spots and glimpses of (presumed) knowledge of the raw material.

Speaking of which, a definite highlight is represented by Tomomi Adachi’s implausibly amusing phonemes: a collage of babbled syllables, strained air intakes and Japanese accents amidst aleatory vibraphone zigzags making “Tomomi Adachi Redux II” a cardinal improver of any intelligent iPod list. Incidentally, I wonder how a collaboration between Creshevsky and scat-machine extraordinaire Lorin Benedict would turn out. Other salient moments are to be found in the magnificent “The Kindness Of Strangers” – a tapestry of modified voice, guitar, bass, lap-steel and banjo that makes those narrow-ranged instruments depict atmospheres of boundlessness – and the conclusive “In Memoriam”, Juho Laitinen’s cello as the basis of a complex type of solemnity replete with glorious resonant shades.

Singling out parts is not an effective option when examining such a kaleidoscopic statement. Go with the flow, letting this combination of unlikely junctures and multifarious timbres inspire your sensation of being, including aspects we’re not ready to immediately grasp. - Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

Creshevsky started around 1971 as a composer, but he is still very productive. His new release for Pogus with seven compositions dating from 2006 up to 2011, is convincing proof of this. It is a real ‘tour de force’ of his hyperrealism. Creshevshy wants to ‘expand musical palettes, and to turn performers into super performers by removing the constraints of human anatomy (breath and touch)’. A music that wants to remain human in any respect, but at the same time wants to transcend human limitations concerning technical capability, etc. Because why should a musical vision stop where technical performing abilities stop due to physical limitations? At the same time however Creshevshy is very alert in making the music sound very human, organic and even sensual. It is music that evidently demonstrates that it is beyond human capacities to perform, but at the same voice and instrument sound recognizable as if it could be done. Although it is his pretension to create imply th is illusion. That makes no sense. But the music remains at the same time very close to human proportions and emotions. It is of great elegance and friendly gestures. ‘La Sonnambula’ is for a trio – so to speak - of piano, clarinet and vibraphone and is a fine example of this. But the compositions that concentrate on the human voice are best examples of this. ‘Lisa Bernard Redux’ with the voice of Lisa Barnard Kelly is a very intimate work. Same for ‘Tomomi Adachi Redux II’ with the voice of Tomomi Adachi and vibraphone and playback. This last piece is also a good illustration or example of the baroque-like melodies Creshevsky seems to prefer. Illustrating that he is also searching for a combination of well-known styles and patterns, with elements that are beyond everything. - DM, Vital Weekly

It is a relief and surprise to hear Noah Creshevsky changed his own concept/approach a bit for this release, taking off the extreme a bit when he rearranges his conceived talent this time into slower progressions, in which it is even more clear and easier to follow what he is doing and expressing, allowing in this way a more normal level of emotionality and speed of evolution into the unfolding of his expressions. From his ideas of hyperrealism the (hyper)kinetic approach has been left out. This is created more onto the rhythm and the level of the speech where every tone is expressed either like singing or like spoken language.

On the first track, “Rounded With A Sleep”, it still is recognisable how he builds up his composition with almost sampled, picked out direction of a musical phoneme under the form of a tone, accent, arpeggio, or whatever choice of a specific instrument, combined with the next one to form his composition with those phonemes instead of notes. In this case you can follow the rhythmic accents in a way someone is singing, directing, moving in space with the dance of the composition. This composition has a layer of singing with an orchestral accompaniment (violin, cello, voices and later flute improvisations and harpsichord) that consists of this collage-like collection of phonemes of movements.
The second track, “La Sonnambula”, has more continuous improvisations on piano, clarinet and vibraphone, some in contemporary series' of notes, while a certain fluent and melodic, at times almost jazzy improvisational movement develops with it as well. “Lisa Barnard Redux” consists of several layers of slightly breathy or quietly singing expressions of spoken word rhythms of consonants, an original playful idea of using human voice. The last part turns to a vocally arranged Baroque chamber-like music melody, while the rhythmic play continues further in the background.
“What If” is a composition with a fast steady melodic piano piece played like a Baroque harpsichord piece of which some notes in between are played on separate notes on the harpsichord as if being some accompanying echo, a bit annoying and disarming the composition as an idea and very playful at the same time. Luckily this idea evolves further when the piano composition becomes a more contemporary composition, so that the harpsichord seems to free itself from this bodice, taking a lead a bit further on, improvising a bit and then returning playfully to this combined body of Baroque notes.
“Tomomi Adachi Redux II” reminds me a bit of the brilliant Asa-Chang & Junray release which was a play of rhythm, Japanese language and a lot more. This track by Noah Creshevsly has an original vocal part based upon fast word expressions that sound like the Japanese language, mixed with funny vocal sounds accents, accompanied by chords of another Baroque melody on guitar. I feel it is a bit of a shame that this idea of accompaniment does not evolve itself to something else once it made itself clear (which would have uplift it to a next level, something the Asa-Chang release always did), it is instead kept basic and simple to an expression of one, still very good idea.
“The Kindness Of Strangers” is played by a few layers of electric amplified guitar (?) mixed with keyboards perhaps, there is attention to the way it is performed as if there is a constant up and down fading in of sound while picking and sliding accents are expressed, the combination of all these ideas are sonically interesting, the change itself is natural like an improvisation. And it also builds up further by adding some voice contributions in the same way, as if giving it a song expression context too.
“In Memoriam” is a chamber-music piece where the direct orchestral playing is much more easy to follow than ever before on Noah’s compositions, giving it an extra dynamic, almost emotionally rich expression to the movements. The way the descending and ascending speed changes are added to the composition and bowed playing recreates the way the orchestra has been played, showing a very practical use of his hyperrealism idea, while being expressed on a new classical piece that expands Bartok to something of more emotional value.

There are really many ideas in this album that are worth discovering. The full concept is highly enjoyable, well alternated and highly accessible, so these are a good start before delving deeper into the works of this talented composer. - Gerald Van Waes, Psyche van het folk
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