The first release from Wall of Waves comes from multi-instrumentalist Marvin Ayres. Like 2012’s Harmogram Suite, Ultradian Rhythms is an orchestral suite in which Ayres plays all the parts, but so smoothly that one can picture dozens of string players springing to life. While the phrase “over-dubbed” is typically a critique, Ayres wears the tag as a badge of honor. This is his project, solely his, rise or fall.
Perhaps such a shift in the artist’s work might have been expected after years of collaborative work. One can only stand in the shadows for so long without beginning to wonder, “Is this my destiny?” At this point, Ayres’ second period is proving to be more memorable than his first. Many performers try to compose effective suites, but few succeed. Ayres’ edge is his mastery of instruments over mixing boards; his fascination may be with texture, but his cello remains the lead story.
This facet of Ayres’ background is not immediately apparent; the listener must reach the heart of the album in order to experience it. “Variation One” bobs on the current, low waves of processed strings producing a lulling effect. Minute shifts become apparent as the track progresses; the flotsam follows the flow. This opening piece, as well as closer “Ultradian”, are reminiscent of the music of Richard Skelton in that their soft surface belies a churning underbelly. While it’s unlikely that Ayres uses 140 layers (as he did in his last suite), Ultradian Rhythms was once “a short, improvised piece”, and now it’s been taffied to fill an hour. These sedimentary layers took years to form, but their outlines can be discerned in the digital dust.
A single cello line begins to separate itself from the pack at the end of the first variation, but strides to center stage in the second. In this moment, the sheet is drawn back and the composer is revealed. The muddied water clears; the sun illuminates the sand beneath the surface. As the first track shared with the public prior to the release (via a YouTube sample clip), “Variation Two” demonstrates the strength of the composer. We need to trust in the strength of the composition before following Ayres into the realm of the processed, and this track cements the trust. The other central tracks continue to highlight a single or double lead instrument; at the end, the strings sink once more into a morass of ambience. This bell curve serves the album well. By the end, the listener is happy to be borne on gentle waves back to the sea. (Richard Allen)