Larry Polansky is a composer, performer, theorist and professor who has been working since the ’70s at places like Mills College and Dartmouth. He’s also a founder of Frog Peak Music (A Composer’s Collective). “All the pieces on this disc are mensuration canons of four or more voices. In these canons, each successively entering voice moves proportionally faster than the previous one, causing each canon’s density and rhythmic complexity to increase from beginning to end.” The works, which span nearly a quarter of a century, from 1978 to 2002, are sounded by a wide variety of instruments.
Those played on marimba, gamelan and fretless guitar remain fairly quiet and forlorn throughout, while others like “Kid Canon” and “Four Boys Mannin'” for strange, computer manipulated voices really pack a punch at the end. Some other standouts in this vein include “Nerve Canon,” which sounds similar to one of Keiji Haino’s awkwardly lurching and slashing metallic synth nightmares, and an old favorite, “#6,” which collages together samples of pond frogs, a Javanese rebab, a baritone sax played by Anthony Braxton, and an ascending sine wave preset of a Kurzweil 250 sampler. The samples initially appear one after another, then gradually get cut up, rearranged and layered in myriad ways for quite a colorful quilt.
Other tracks, like “Headphone Canon,” with its pleasantly pulsing and percolating computer, and “Trio Canon,” which boasts a hairshirt free improv battle between a guitar, cello and percussion, seem to inhabit a special realm all their own. On a side note, it’s kind of puzzling why “#3” was omitted, as there was plenty of room for it on this CD, and it has been released at least twice before. Overall, the Four Voice Canons album is a fun, delightful, attention-to-detail listen that flows through a much more academic experimental vein than the lush atmospherics usually associated with Cold Blue.
Text ©2009 Arcane Candy