William Ryan Fritch ~ Kaleidoscope

KaleidoscopeJust when we thought we’d heard all the great music released in 2012, another one comes along.  To be fair, this 31-minute track was released on Christmas Day, serving as a present to fans as well as a celebration of the event.  One doesn’t have to look much farther than the cover to see the associations: the star, the light, the red and green.  The piece was initially conceived as the score to a live installation, and contains elements that we’ll encounter again on an upcoming album with Jon Mueller under the alias Death Blues Ensemble, so it’s a song of past, present and future, all wrapped up in one.

And what a track it is!  This is Fritch’s best work by far, topping anything he’s done as Vieo Abiungo, which is quite a feat.  The irony is that this is an under-the-radar EP, a hidden gem we are happy to have encountered.

Most of Fritch’s pieces to date have been maddeningly short; even in a five-minute span, there’s little opportunity to develop grand ideas.  This piece affords plenty of room to breathe, and operates as a series of connected ideas, like smaller tracks connected with tape and twine.  Instead of concentrating on a single theme, Fritch chooses to encompass many.  The advantage is that the piece can be played repeatedly without ever seeming tired.  Fritch connects the dots by returning to instruments later in the piece rather than to motifs: the string and glockenspiel segments seem like choruses, although they don’t repeat their previous notes.  Soft, thoughtful passages are balanced by melodic, tempo-driven sections; avant-garde leanings are balanced by accessible lines.  Big Themes emerge, then retreat, an act of great restraint.  Perhaps the biggest of these arrives in the eighteenth minute, a morass of eastern strings that wraps up the Mueller section while recalling the work of George Harrison.  Less than a minute later, the moment is over.  Light refracts, scattering shadows.  The pieces tumble over each other like brightly colored glass in a lit wooden tube.  (Richard Allen)  

Available here

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