William Ryan Fritch ~ Deceptive Cadence: Music for Film Volume I & II

Deceptive Cadence is the crown jewel of Lost Tribe Sound’s latest subscription series, if not of their entire discography.  This is only fitting as William Ryan Fritch ~ who also records as Vieo Abiungo ~ is the label’s signature artist.  Deceptive Cadence makes a perfect introduction for neophytes, and a generous gift for fans: nearly 150 minutes of music spread across two discs, and not a single skippable track.

How did Fritch do such a thing?  The answer is fairly simple, as he went back over the selections on Volume I (2015), revising some and excising others, leaving only the cream of the crop.  New songs and sequencing have been added as well, beginning with the self-explanatory “Reshuffle the Deck.”  It must have been hard to resist the urge to be inclusive.  Of the tracks that only appear in the original set, nothing is over 2:28, and while many of the remaining tracks are shorter than that, they justify their inclusion with memorable themes.  We’re less harsh on Fritch as he is on himself, having chosen the original as one of the best film score albums of its year.  But we understand the cuts, as some of the excised tracks seemed to fade out before they began.  Standout track “Processional” is still here, and now there are others as well.  “Lauren’s Love” is downright gorgeous, an early highlight of swirling strings and voice.  “Our Thirsting World” is as gentle and speculative as its title.  “Same River” has a dark cello motif that virtually leaps from the speakers.  The bottom line for fans is that even without Volume II, Volume I would be worth buying again.

And now to Volume II.  Fritch has a lot of material to choose from, having scored 30 full-length films and over 100 short films in the last decade (as well as releasing 20 albums!).  This level of productivity usually leads to a decline in quality, and we typically warn composers against it, as we feel their best ideas get watered down.  But Fritch is one of the very few who buck the odds, perhaps second only to Machinefabriek when it comes to the equation of output x quality.  These 20 tracks bring the total to 45, which makes this a good time to mention that the double album is sold at single-album price.  These pieces are from newer films, and represent a slightly quieter, more nuanced side of the composer.

Subdued piano sets “All the Feels” apart from the bombast of Volume I, as well as from Calvin Harris’ popular song of a similar title.  “Lionize” gradually mixes in emotion rather than pouring it in all at once.  “Sanguine” is ambient in nature, reflecting its title.  Not that Fritch has gone soft; he’s simply deepened his tonal palette, most strikingly on the seven-minute “Sleight of Hand,” the first of two extended pieces in the set.  This is a different Fritch, but it’s also the same Fritch, as we’d recognize those languid themes anywhere.

Those who prefer the artist’s wilder side will still have plenty to plunge into here, beginning with “Implosion,” whose Indian inflections lend the track the impression of a Bengal tiger; and continuing with the percussive, raga-influenced “Ricochet.”  By the time we reach “When Tragedy Coheres,” all our thoughts are in widescreen.  There’s not much more that one can ask of a film composer than to stretch boundaries like this; after ten years, William Ryan Fritch is still capable of surprise, and we’re looking forward to even more surprises in the decade to come.  (Richard Allen)

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