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Album Review: Interlocking Textures

by Daniel Corral
October 15, 2012

In August, the Los Angeles Electric 8 released Interlocking Textures, an album that “encompasses a century of American composers inspired by the subtle melodies and complex rhythms of Indonesian gamelan.” 

There really couldn’t be a more fitting title for the album. The broad-stroke description of their sound would place them somewhere between the canonic structures of Steve Reich and the embossed fractal cycles of Indonesian Gamelan. But their sound travels beyond that. The group’s transnational aesthetic draws from Bali, Java, Japan, Russia, and more.

Randall C. Kohl’s Suite Mundial finds the group explicitly exploring the aforementioned influences of Balinese and Javanese music.

Mantle Hood’s Implosion, originally written for percussion quartet, also stays close to that Indonesian theme. Hood, who is best known as the grandfather of ethnomusicology,  fills the piece with Balinese-ish landscapes, but  populates it with distinctly American music.

That is followed by Toru Takemitsu‘s Romance. Originally written for piano, Romance benefits greatly from the guitar octet arrangement, creating a sort of timbral bridge between that quintessential Western instrument and the Japanese Koto.

The group then launches into the more distinctly American music with an excerpt from Reich’s Electric CounterpointJonathan Guillen’s Fog is pretty, somber melodic fantasy over subdued whole tone ostinati, while Kai Kurosawa’s Warr Guitar Conterpoint is a well-crafted additive process piece featuring Kurosawa’s own Warr Guitar.

Charles T. Griffe’s Three Javanese Songs follows, capturing the beautiful austerity of Javanese music. The nature of the guitar’s sonic decay really does a fine job emulating Javanese instruments without sounding contrived.

The classical guitar background of the many of the musicians in the group is betrayed by the last piece on Interlocking Texturesan arrangement of Shostakovich’s Octet, Op. 11. A combination ofTomita and Stanley Jordan comes to mind, though only superficially, as the comparison doesn’t do the arrangement justice.

Interlocking Textures is an exciting album of electric guitar arrangements you won’t hear anywhere else. The Los Angeles Electric 8are not quite as raucous as Glenn Branca, yet not as traditional as the LA Guitar Quartet. Their musical path points in entirely other directions, and it will be exciting to see where it leads.

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