It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from Christian Frederickson, one of the three founding members of Rachel’s. But as Teratogeny proves, he’s been busy over the ensuing years, writing short pieces for stage and screen. His new album collects eleven of these “little monsters” and presents them as a compact package.
We’ve placed the album in our Modern Composition category, but it would be equally fair to lodge it in other categories as well, due to the nature of the release. The most effective pieces are orchestral, including the lovely opener and closer, “All One Body” and “The Last Night.” The former includes music from Frederickson’s sadly departed bandmate Jason Noble, and acts as a loving dedication; the latter highlights the piano work of Rachel Grimes, whose appearance returns the favor of Frederickson’s contribution to The Clearing earlier this year. “All One Body” is particularly poignant given the circumstances. The strings seem to speak of higher things while acknowledging the pain of the present day. The triptych of “Wind-Up Bird”, “Resting On Mercury” and “You Will Not Be Left Alone”, nesting in the center of the album, provides some of its most elegant passages, in particular the dynamic contrast and pas-de-deux of the middle piece. “You Will Not Be Left Alone” also elaborates on the tone of the opening track, enhancing the yearning with organ and bells.
But there are also rock songs here (“The Sacrifice”, “Recoil”), ambient tracks (“Landscape #2”), and electronic pieces (“Swallow Duets”, “Prepared Guitar”, “The Party at the End of the World”). Tailor-made for action scenes and dance performances, these pieces provide an inkling of Frederickson’s diversity. But even the slow-grooving “Swallow Duets”, with its head-nodding tempo and hard beats, is graced with a tiny bit of violin near the end, a reminder of the artist’s main instrument. Our only light quibble with the album is that the sequencing might have been rearranged to produce a better sense of flow; should a physical release follow, we suggest genre groupings.
Overall, Tetratogeny makes a fine collection and is a must-purchase for fans of the artist and his related projects. Next up: the remaining two parts of The Painted Bird project, the culmination of an ambitious dance/scoring performance of a few years’ back. The artist continues to impress in both composition and performance, and these upcoming releases may constitute his magnum opus. (Richard Allen)