Joel St. Julien ~ Mine

RAWDANCEMINE1When most people hear the phrase “dance music”, they think of nightclubs.  But this is dance music for a dance performance, a surprisingly avant-garde set that challenges and entertains in the same breath.  Joel St. Julien‘s work follows in the tradition of Peter Broderick’s Music for Contemporary Dance and Christian Frederickson’s The Painted Bird | Bastard by providing dancers and audiences with a captivatingly original vision.

St. Julien already has extensive experience in multiple fields, as the vocalist of the band Ellul and the composer of sound work for short and feature films. But this commissioned work for the Bay Area group RAWdance may be his best offering to date.  Featuring elements of the ambient, drone, and electronic fields, the eight-movement album keeps listeners guessing and must have been a treat for the performers to adapt.  Every dancer loves variety, and we’re talking about some muscular, daring performers, as demonstrated by the rope images above and below.  With elements of great beauty balanced by sharp segments of abrasion, this score may have sounded to many live attendees like nothing they had ever heard before: the otherworldly breaking through to the surface world.

One of top choicesConsider for example the cellophane electronics and controlled breath at the beginning of “IV”, a disorienting combination that gives way to deep bass and distant pulleys.  The mystery asks to be deciphered, in the same way as dance asks to be interpreted; one intuits thoughts and emotions, projecting one’s imagination upon the production.  And of course this is St. Julien’s intention: to inspire “fear or bliss”, depending on the listener.  The following piece contains chopped, looped, AGF-style whispers ~ no … okay … mine? … I earned it … I worked too hard for this ~ reflecting the theme of RAWdance’s production, “exploring our impulse to possess”.  St. Julien strikes bottles throughout the piece, producing a fragile backdrop that seems vulnerable to a looming drone.

Will desire, intended to draw us closer to each other, draw us further apart?  There’s little hint of a resolution in the score, which is only fitting.  A steady beat develops in the sixth movement, until it falls apart in a scatter of organ tones.  It’s tempting to think of the organ as “church music”, but it’s also been used in horror films, and the moment is brief.  All of the elements return for the closing piece: the organ, the voices, the beat; but the final sound is similar to that of a heart alone.  This is music for dance ~ but more importantly, this is music for struggle, a soundtrack to the war within.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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