Various Artists ~ Variables

coverThe challenge: “writing, arranging, performing, recording, editing and mastering an album from scratch to release in 7 days.”  The players:  a cross-section of the bigo & twigetti roster, including Antonymes, Beatrice Chaume, Chris Perren (Nonsemble), Jim Perkins, Leah Kardos, Lucy Claire, Richard Talbot (Marconi Union) & Tiny Leaves.  The results:  sublime.

I’m a little bit jealous: this is a group I’d love to hang out with.  I’ve never met any of the composer/performers, but I can picture them signing on for the project, each encouraged by the availability of the next.  There they are in the studio, trading, scrapping and adopting ideas.  Does this work?  What do you think of this?  Can we get a piano in here?  Can we record anyone’s footsteps, or does one of us have particularly appealing sonic feet?  

As we’re familiar with most of these artists, it’s relatively easy to guess who’s doing what, but not always; the pleasure is hearing how they mesh.  One can intuit the atmospheres of Antonymes, the interlocking melodies of Lucy Claire, the tender ivories of Tiny Leaves.  These songs are sometimes lovely, sometimes dark (as in the brooding bass of the appropriately-titled “Another Direction”).  Cultures collide on “Connection Error”, a dance track with “Tusk”-like rhythms that incorporates thoughtful piano.  More often, ambient and classical timbres win out, although even these include extra touches, such as the (very) light glitch of “Introspect”.

The best tracks ~ and perhaps we are displaying a genre preference here ~ are the string-laced selections, which achieve a degree of transcendence.  “Sketches” is one of these, an autumnal composition with a somewhat ironic title, as it arrives fully formed.  The aforementioned footsteps seem appropriate for the season, as we walk resolutely into fall, whether we want to or not.  Seeking strings, hopeful piano and supportive electronics meld like shades of amber, crimson and gold.  The same holds true for “Reflection”, which presents us with the final waves of summer, melancholic and resigned, yet not dismayed.  As the physical waves begin to diminish, the sonic waves advance, a perfect reflection of the title.  And “Detachment” offers swirls of leaves that land in piles of bells, making everything glimmer and ring.

The collaborative spirit is alive and well at bigo & twigetti; we congratulate the artists on a beautiful set that seems like it might have taken a year to complete, had we not known otherwise.  (Richard Allen)

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