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    Matthew Burtner – NOISE Plays Burtner

    Matthew Burtner - Noise Plays Burtner

    The harsh environment of Alaska, where composer Matthew Burtner grew up, has exerted quite a big influence on some of his musical works. Take, for example, “Snowprints,” the second of three pieces on his new album of chamber music–featuring the ensemble NOISE on flute, violin, cello, guitar, piano, percussion, sax and computer–called NOISE Plays Burtner. Employing the sounds of recorded snow as a droning counterpoint to the acoustic instruments, this 15-minute centerpiece maintains a subtle web of minimal ambience that ranges from pastoral to squeaky to homely to ominous to outright intense. The ensemble maintains interesting playing throughout.

    Influenced by Henry Cowell’s “Rhythmicana,” the album’s opener “Polyrhythmicana” steps it up a notch by requiring offset click tracks to be played in the musicians’ headphones, which cause them to produce layers of rhythms skewed off from each other. What it sounds like is a bunch of country and krautrock players jamming acoustic while completely isolated from one another, thus they can’t hear what each other is playing. As if that weren’t confounding enough, their instruments are wrapped up in aluminum foil, “casting the entire ensemble in an odd, buzzing, acoustic noise.” The results veer all the way from incessant, repetitive, single note piping and plucking that will drive everyone except you insane, to a detuned avant-hillbilly hangover that is alternately explosive and woozy, ending up in a melancholic alcoholic chamber setting.

    The album shuts down with “(dis)Sensus,” in which “explosive energy arises from formal contrast.” The sounds on this track range from someone scribbling on a pad of paper to morse code beeping with chirps, squeals and bells that segue on into avant-garde jazz realms complete with obtuse toy piano playing, a bowed saw and scraping violin outbursts. Then three folk rock bands play three different songs at the same time, followed by a bit of obtuse warmup improv and a scattered, spooky, melancholy chamber ballad. After a bit more damaged, staggered avant-rock, the album finally calls it quits. And what a fine, hot mess it’s gotten us into!

    Label: Innova Catalog Number: innova 871 Format: CD Packaging: Digi-Pak Tracks: 13 Total Time: 46:50 Country: United States Released: 2013 More: Innova, Official

    Text ©2014 Arcane Candy

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