Jim Perkins & Tom Gaisford ~ Byrds

Jim Perkins & Tom Gaisford Byrds - Low Res 1440This review begins with the cover art.  We’ve seen the Bigo & Twigetti work of London-based French designer Lucille Clerc before, on two prior releases from Jim Perkins (Transfiguration and Constance), but this is her best cover yet.  It looks like a picture disc, and we even said a little prayer that it was a picture disc, but sadly it’s not ~ it’s just a picture for now.  But we want one.  We want posters and t-shirts and lathe cuts.  We’re greedy like that.  In fact, we like the art so much that we’re reviewing this single, even though we usually don’t review singles, and it has vocals, even though we usually don’t review vocals.  There’s no better way to alert labels and artists that art is important!  Yes, this will be in our Best Album Art feature at the end of the year, guaranteed.

To be honest, if the music were poor, we’d be heartbroken.  But this is Bigo & Twigetti we’re talking about, and they haven’t led us wrong yet.  The starting point is William Byrd’s “Kyrie” from his Mass for Three Voices, composed in 1593-94, which makes it the oldest thing we’ve ever reviewed.  After half a millennium, it still sounds good.  First we hear a 38-second version (Cantus Firmish), then a tender expansion with whispers, strings and electronics, and last a darker and more danceable version from Leah Kardos.  Those familiar with Miranda Sex Garden’s “Gush Forth My Tears” CD5″ will love these treatments, especially as the final piece is slightly gothic in nature ~ oddly akin to the actual gothic period.  (Historical goths, rejoice!)

The vocal renditions are pristine and lovely ~ in this case, one wishes only that they were longer.  This is the beauty of the modern era, in which a slight phrase can be extended into a song.  The piano and strings of “Kyrie” lend the piece a new underpinning of beauty, while the drums and sonic surges act as reflections of the current age.  But fear not ~ this is not Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band’s “A Fifth of Beethoven”.  Instead of playing to pop sensibilities, “Kyrie” strikes up a conversation with the modern composition crowd, while Kardos demonstrates how much can be accomplished with a lower pitch.  Talking to the new generation about the classics can be a slog.  But update these classics with reverence, and miracles can happen.  (Richard Allen)

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