Fresh off the success of the collaborative Variables, Bigo & Twigetti founder Jim Perkins returns with an all-new venture. Constance conjures aural images of classic chamber music while providing ample amounts of 21st century inflection.
The full orchestration – nine total players, including a string sextet – allow for an incredible richness of timbre. Vintage chamber music lacked guitar and electronics, but the modern instruments spice up the recording like cinnamon in cider. Their presence is especially felt on “Fragment” and “Foundling”, as beats, bleeps and snaps flirt with the strings, waving hello across the centuries. Their locations – the second and penultimate tracks – display the intentional sequencing, which is meant to provide balance to the overall set. Between them lie more traditional segments, embedded in distinctly untraditional tracks. By threading these elements into a discernible tapestry, Perkins creates an album that flows as a suite. One can’t help but think of the album’s homonym – constants – as one seeks to discern the overall structure.
The first nod to classic chamber music can be found from 1:39-2:16 of lead single “Transfiguration”: a segment of trills and thrills, in which the cello offers a counterweight to the soaring violins and viola. As their flight ends, the cello takes over the composition. As the center of the track, this segment offers a hint of the album’s overall construction; it’s an overture more of form than of melody. In like fashion, the nine-and-a-half-minute title track swirls around a vulnerable center (2:27-5:47) like birds protecting a nest; the glissandos suggest circles and dives. Bright at the beginning, thick and flocklike at the end, the strings offer their quiet children a chance to grow, to stretch their own tentative wings.
“Bloom” and “Speed and Distance” also suggest older compositions. The first is reminiscent of courtly dances – that is, under the single chords begin to ring. At this point, Perkins dares to go just a little bit further than his ancestors might have dared, verging on the atonal yet stopping just short. The piano segment (lying between the strings) comes as a sweet surprise, tempering the harshness. The “speed” portions of the latter contain timbres that call to mind the finale of Vivaldi’s “Winter Concerto No. 4 in f, Op 8 – Allegro non molto”, while the “distance” portions echo the tone of patient compositions such as Daniel Bjarnason and Ben Frost’s Solaris. Together, they form a remarkable hybrid. The track is Bigo & Twigetti in microcosm: a creative reconciliation of past and present. (Richard Allen)